December 07, 2006

Friday, 12/8

NYT 5:24
NYS 4:42
LAT 4:12
CS 3:07

Reagle 10:41
WSJ 9:07

(post updated 8:30 a.m. Friday)

I'm in that delicate zone between awake enough to enjoy a themeless crossword and too sleepy to be coherent. I was so much more alert at 9:00 when I started Harvey Estes' NYT crossword than I am now, and sheesh, it's 9:18 as I write this.

Harvey's puzzle features six 15-letter entries going across, and they're all glued together by three vertical 15's. From a constructing standpoint, that just looks...fearsome. The nonet of long entries have a fresh feel to them—particularly YOUR PLACE OR MINE. Entertaining clues, such as [Passage leading to Panama?] for A MAN A PLAN A CANAL, [Dollar rival] for EURO, and [Time to draw?] for NOON. Plenty of old-school fill here to facilitate the slew of 15's, but not with the same old clues—for example, RARA, ERAT, and ENOLA all eschew mention of "___ avis,", Q.E.D., and "___ Gay" (though OMOO and IRAE do have more malleable clues—[Novel of the South Seas] and [Dies ___]). And ETUI! Who knew that the Europeans were all about the étuis these days? The clue reads [German iPod holder], and Google turns up a zillion French references (such as the Louis Vuitton iPod étui). ETUI! Hip again! I eagerly await an animated feature film about a feckless anoa making her way through a challenging world. This puzzle's also got some local appeal, with [___Center (Chicago's second tallest building)]. The AON Center used to be the Amoco Building and before that, in my childhood, the Standard Oil Building. Such schadenfreude when they had to replace the entire stone façade a few years back! Anyway...thanks for the puzzle, Harvey and Will.

Karen Tracey's Sun Weekend Warrior wasn't too hard, but it was a classic piece of Traceyiana: A Scrabbly world capital, Chad's N'DJAMENA. Fun stuff like SHLEMIEL, WASABI, and WATUSI (what? no WAPITI to fill out the WA***I possibilities?). Consonant explosions like CBGB and Greta SCACCHI. The clues were interesting but fair—[Husband of Cornelia] for CAESAR, [They may be tragic] for FLAWS, [Blue or bird follower] for FLU. And look! KEN is clued as ["Brainiac" author Jennings]. There's also a dash of ethnic pride inherent in UNITAS, [He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the same year as Butkus]—ah, two Lithuanian-Americans! (Me, I'm an eighth Lithuanian.) So, thanks for a fun puzzle, Karen and Peter.


Randolph Ross's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "Caveat Emptor," warns you away from various members of professions, such as trombonist said to be LONG-WINDED and a drummer who's A LITTLE OFF-BEAT.

Ouch. Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle for this Sunday, "The Same Name Game 2," assembles nine different Floyds, without telling you that's the name they all have in common. Some are real people, some fictional—plus there's Pink Floyd. The first theme entry I filled in completely was PIANO MAN CRAMER, and even after figuring out Floyd can be added to each name, I still didn't recognize the guy's name. (Ouch.) And TV's Floyd the Barber had a last name? I had no idea. GANGSTER PRETTY BOY finally clued me in on the theme.