December 22, 2006

Saturday, 12/23

Newsday 8:35
NYT 8:06
LAT 7:20
CS 3:02

(post updated at 1:15 p.m. Saturday)

The parade of themeless challenges continues with Myles Callum's Saturday NYT crossword. Strewn amid the dozen 10- and 11-letter entries are a few old crossword friends (and enemies) and some new business. Plenty of the clues chewed up little bits of my brain, too. First up, a clue I remembered every word of the [Argonaut who slew Castor] clue from the last time around—hundreds of people Googled their way to my post and one by that January puzzle's constructor, Eric Berlin, because who's ever heard of IDAS? (Yep, I forgot him by December.) Then there's CNN's REA Blakey, who sounds only vaguely familiar. I know a lot of plants, but not the [Dwarf plant of the eastern U.S.], the VIOLET IRIS. Didn't know DAILY DOZEN meant [Set of routine duties]. Didn't really know [France's West Point], Saint-CYR, but think I might've encountered it while reading up on Lili St. Cyr when she was in a puzzle.

Myles has a quartet of numbers in his grid: the Italian TRE and SEI, the Roman III ([Crowd in old Rome?]), and THREE. Three times three plus six equals 15, just perfect for a 15x15 grid. Moving from arithmetic to the arts, we have HENRY MOORE's sculpture; Foucault wrote "This Is Not A PIPE (click link for excellent cartoon!); COROT painted; and Sir Georg SOLTI has won a load of Grammys. (No, ADAM SANDLER doesn't quite make it into the arts sentence.) Moving to the cruciverbal arts, fabulous entries in WATER COOLER, NAME BRAND, RITE-AID, and WHOOSH.

The most devious clues included [Couple in the news in 1945] for ATOMIC BOMBS, [Locks up?] for SPIKED HAIR, [Hang out] for AIR-DRY, and [Sign that something's missing] for CARET. Fortunately, we also had the crossword staple ORIEL (look at the picture—might help you remember it if you know what it looks like, eh?), [Island staple] POI, our favorite pre-Borat Kazakh city, Alma-ATA, and Simpsons staple D'OH. Overall, simply an excellent puzzle. Kudos to Myles and Will Shortz!


O bounteous Saturday! Meaty themeless challenges wherever I turn. Slightly quicker to solve than the NYT and the Newsday puzzle was Bob Mackey's LA Times puzzle, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Precious few gimmes—just CHI McBride and two crosswordesey words, ENOLS and TAL. Everything else, I had to work for. Favorite clues and entries include [Hopelessly ruined] for BELLY-UP, PHONE IN, HIM OR ME, HOT LIPS, [Alito or Scalia, e.g.] for ITALIAN-AMERICAN, and [Going concern?] for TIME OF DEPARTURE (so timely with all the holiday travel this weekend). And of course I always enjoy ISOPODS because that lets me link to the photo of the giant isopod (which I try not to think about when I encounter a wee roly-poly in the house).

In Merle Baker's Newsday Saturday Stumper, the clues did manage to stump me pretty well. I even knew what he was getting at with [Rice, for one], but couldn't think of an 8-letter word describing Condi. (DIPLOMAT!) Of all the shout-outs to George Clooney, alas, this one summons up the POMADED George of O Brother, Where Art Thou?. I move that we start using the word pomaded to describe those men who wear too much gel in their hair, even if gel's not technically the same as pomade. Good fill includes DRUTHERS, CON GAMES, and LEAVE IT TO ME. Most mystifying clue: [Judge missing since 1930]. It turned out to be CRATER; you can read about his mysterious disappearance here.

Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy puzzle is gift-wrapped with the title, "Gnarled Christmas Tree: An Anagram Puzzle." Yup, that's exactly what it is. The stocking stuffers are the longer fill, like DAILY BUGLE, MEERKATS, and IRISH SEA.