December 14, 2006

Friday, 12/15

NYT 7:06
NYS 6:18
LAT 5:09
12/1 CHE 4:07
CS 3:48

Reagle 7:55
WSJ tba

(post updated at 9:00 a.m. Friday)

Between a soporific state and one of those Vh1 clip shows ("Most Embarrassing Celebrity Moments"—ah, schadenfreude, my old friend!), this'll be a short(ish) post.

First up: Why on earth do you solve crosswords? What do you get out of it? And isn't it a bit like playing video games? Blogger Rich S makes a good case for the latter—and not in a bad way—in a thoughtful rumination on the crossword fixation.

The Friday NYT is by Levi Denham, and the puzzle's reminiscent of those by Sherry Blackard and Bob Klahn—just a lot of stuff packed into a grid and hiding behind tough clues. There were a few gimmes, like the A-ha song "Take ON ME" and DDT (both are toxic!). Plenty of 11-letter phrases—felt more like a Saturday than a Friday.

Alan Arbesfeld's Sun crossword, "Joint Administrations," sandwiches two presidential names together, monkeys with the word breaks, and reclues. For example, JOHNSON and GRANT become [Musical diatribe from the bathroom?]—a scary, scary clue with the non-scary JOHN SONG RANT answer. Nifty theme, I thought. No shortage of wicked clues elsewhere—[Bets follow them] is ALEPHS, not a gambling term; [Say "C-H-E-E-S-E"?] is SPELL, not SMILE; [Dutch astronomer Jan] is OORT, as in the Oort cloud; [Good fighter?] is EVIL.

Lemme go on record as saying I've grown mighty tired of all the hair-care-related clues for GEL/GELS lately. The Friday Sun, the Thursday NYT, and at least one or two other puzzles I've done this week. Can we get an aspic or an agar reference, or something other than salons and hairdressers? The verb form? Toothpaste?


Michael Ashley's December 1 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "League of Nations," duped me at first. Given the title, I thought the Costa Rican and Mexican presidents were part of the theme. Quite cleverly, the theme entries are...well, I'll let you discover that for yourself. There's an entry toward the end that ties the theme entries together in a fancy bow (figuratively).

Merl Reagle's "Cliche Combos" features words that have become "married" in English idiom, such as "scantily clad"—how often do you see a different adverb for that sense? Merl gathers 11 other phrases like that. It'd be fun to mess with these idioms and call someone an abject amateur, but I'd probably get some odd looks if I did that.

Robert Wolfe's LA Times puzzle puns with five musical notes (as in KNEAD THE DO). The square that gave me the most trouble was the crossing of the woody fiber BAST with BORE, clued as [Was worthy of]. BAST?? If I were editing that corner, I might've opted for CAST/CORE, FAST/FORE, LAST/LORE, MAST/MORE, or PAST/PORE. Also, I love pop-culture clues, but only when they're recent enough to be in my ken; [Harry of old Westerns] didn't shout CAREY to me. [Mariah of "Glitter"], sure.

The Wall Street Journal's Across Lite version won't be available until later today, maybe Friday evening.