December 21, 2006

Friday, 12/22

NYS 6:18
NYT 5:14
12/8 CHE 4:42
LAT 4:36
CS 3:09

WSJ 10:44
Reagle 7:42

(post updated at 10:10 a.m. Friday)

There's much to admire in the day's themeless crosswords—Mike Nothnagel's NYT and David Quarfoot's Sun Weekend Warrior. Looking first at the easier of the two puzzles, here's what I noticed in the NYT: Intersecting 13's through the middle of the grid, with their first and last pairs of letters hooked up to pairs of fantastic 8-letter entries (such as TO THE MAX, IT'S A DEAL, TV REMOTE). Those 13's cross at the letter O, which also starts 11 different entries. Other grand entries include SIM CITY (Wow, it dates back to 1989? My son enjoys the game now.), MY HERO, DEEJAY, TANKED, SNOOZED, QUINTS...not to mention everything with Scrabbly letters (four X's, plus some Q, Z, J, K action). Favorite clues: [Take the top off] for BEHEAD (!), [Show stopper?] for TV REMOTE, and [It can help you carry a tune] for IPOD.

Speaking of Scrabbly, the Quarfoot puzzle uses a Q outside the byline, along with some representatives of the Z, X, J, and K clan. Contemporary fill highlights include AL-ZARQAWI, ZIPCAR (those Zipcar and I-Go Car fleets are peppered all over Chicago's North Side now), XM RADIO, and the 2000 movie, SEXY BEAST. The Nothnagel puzzle serves up TWO EGGS, while Quarfoot cooks OMELETTES. Here there's an entry in two parts: I SEE DEAD/PEOPLE, Haley Joel Osment's memorable line from The Sixth Sense. Plus OUT COLD, OXYMORON, NET GAME, WINDEX—good stuff. Favorite/trickiest clues: the simple [Away] for ROAD (as in road games), [Have a cow] for CALVE, [Host country of the 2006 Asian Games] for QATAR (c'mon, how many other 5-letter countries went through your mind? Korea, Japan, India, Burma, Tibet, Nepal...), and [Turning aid] for SKI POLE (with four of the same letters, I first opted for SPINDLE).


Craig Kasper's December 8 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Poetry Readings," is one of those in which the brilliance of the puzzle lies in the clues. The four theme entries are types of poems—LIMERICK, CINQUAIN, RONDELET, and CLERIHEW. If you don't know how the various rhyme schemes, meter, syllable counts, and other conventions apply in these poetry forms, click the links on their names. The Down clues mentioned in the clues for these entries, while nonsensical as poetry, follow the rules for these forms. Thus, LIMERICK's associated clues, 45 through 51 Down, read, "Made use of to cover one's skin / She gave us original sin / They're held in high standing / Naproxen, by branding / Attack and completely hem in." Aside from the tour de force of clue structure, the fill's good, too. Congratulations on a well-executed and ambitious crossword, Craig.

Patrick Berry's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Carol Channeling," slightly mangles Christmas carol titles to apply to TV shows. Thus, the Baywatch song is O TAN AND BLOND. Kinda tough to tease out the reworked song titles—and I'm familiar with all the TV shows involved. If you're an anti-TV, anti–pop culture solver, you'll really have your work cut out for you. But me? I loved it!

Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle for this Sunday has a timely theme—see 64-, 65-, and 66-Across for the theme's core. Funniest clue: [It might be wireless], 3 letters. Non-technical!

The theme in Patti Fitzgerald's LA Times puzzle eluded me for some time. With LOOP HALL, I suspected a sound change from loophole, but it turned out to be a first-half-backwards thing. For consistency, all six of those first-half words are *OO* words.

The most straightforward of the themed puzzles I did today was Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy crossword, "Triple Double Figures"—the theme includes four people who have three sets of double letters in their names.