November 30, 2006

Friday, 12/1

NYT 5:26
NYS 4:49
11/24 CHE 5:29
LAT 3:53
CS 3:07

WSJ 8:17
Reagle 6:51

(post updated at 9:45 a.m. Friday)

All righty, Friday crosswords make me happy like Thursday ones do—only more so because there are a few more reliably good puzzles to chew on. The NYT's a traditional themeless by Mike Nothnagel (who looks a lot like actor Chris Noth in my addled head), and the Sun puzzle is a joint production of Jeffrey Harris and Patrick Berry. (Both puzzles, of course, bear the imprimatur of their respective editors.)

Nothnagel's NYT crossword has the kind of structure that irks some people—the northwest and southeast corners are almost stand-alone mini-puzzles, with just one word in each section interlocking with other parts of the puzzle. Me, I rather like that extra bit of challenge, at least when my brain's firing on all cylinders and there aren't any impossible crossings. I lucked out on the wavelength thing, with many of my first guesses being correct. Clues and entries that pleased me include the IRON CHEF TV show (I'd like to see a combination of Fear Factor and Iron Chef, where the most appalling offal must be used to prepare a fantastic meal), [Manager of a two-party system?] for NOAH, [Follower of Mao?] for TSE, JOIE DE VIVRE, cartoonist Jim UNGER (because I'm not sure why I even knew that name), and [Not fixed] for MOVABLE (my first guess there was FERTILE!).

In Jeffrey and Patrick's Sun puzzle, "Half-abetic," the theme pertains to being halfway diabetic. No, not really. But it took me a couple minutes to figure out what the title and the gimmick were. How are the letters in the grid AMBIDEXTROUS? The left side contains only letters from the first half of the alphabet (A through M), while the right draws from the N-to-Z pool. (The Across Lite notepad, by the way, informs us that we should imagine a dashed line splitting the left side from the right. I have never met any CAMELEERS, and I don't know rapper LIL Wayne, and I didn't know that scheletro was Italian for "skeleton" (a part of it being OSSO, or "bone"), and I didn't know KIBBLE was also a verb, and I didn't recognize that Denpasar is in BALI. And it's only now that I've figured out why [Salt creator] is Dahl—Roald Dahl dreamed up Veruca Salt for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. So, yeah, I learned a lot in this crossword. Isn't it nifty that the word AMBIDEXTROUS has only letters from the alphabet's first half in its first half, and the last for its last?

Happy December, everyone! Here in Chicago, the snowflakes are wafting down gently now and dusting the parked cars, but we're told to expect 6 to 12 inches of accumulation by morning. Ack!


Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy puzzle made me think hard for [Blowfish head?]. Turned out to be HOOTIE, which technically is nobody's name and the leader of Hootie and the Blowfish was/is Darius Rucker, but I still enjoyed it because it duped me into thinking of fish anatomy.

The trickiest clue for me in Todd McClary's 11/24 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Canis Major," was [It may be drawn to scale], which the crossings eventually told me was KNIFE. (Here's a picture of a guy using a knife to scale a fish.)

Manny Nosowsky's Wall Street Journal puzzle ("Discount! Discount!") throws a bunch of sales come-ons at you. Took me a long time to get the first theme entry, but then the other ones came more quickly. Funniest clue: [Brief composition?] for COTTON.

Merl Reagle's Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Just Sew," features a sewing theme. A knitting or crocheting theme would have reminded me more of my grandmother, who finally died in the wee hours, in her sleep. Her last day was a feisty one—she never was a pushover. Bye, Gram—we'll miss you.