December 16, 2006

Sunday, 12/17

NYT 15 minutes, half hour, whatever
BG 8:36
LAT 7:37
WaPo 7:35
CS 3:57

(post updated at 9:30 a.m. Sunday)

Hey, if you normally solve the Sunday NYT puzzle in the timed applet, you ought to switch to Across Lite (on screen or printed out) for Joe DiPietro's "Lay of the Land." I have it in the applet with a typo somewhere, but am now filling in a hard copy so its elegance can smack me in the face.

So, this puzzle. I had the applet all filled out, but with the rebus action, it was going to drive me nuts to scan the whole grid looking for it. Plus, I wanted to see clearly what was going on with the rebuses (I never do that + thing in the applet to enter more than one letter—hmm, maybe I should start), so I printed out the puzzle and grabbed my trusty EraserMate pen. Along the way, I found my error (I had GET SOFT crossing EMITS rather than GOT SOFT/OMITS), changed a letter in the applet, and submitted my solution. Then I turned back to the hard copy. There are no theme entries per se (at least I don't think there are), but the rebus squares contain two-letter postal abbreviations for 12 states, in their correct geographic locations. CA is on the far west coast, ME in the northeast, FL in the southeast, and KS smack-dab in the center. As a bonus, in symmetrical spots near the northern and southern borders, we've got CANADA and MEXICO. Impressive execution of a great idea!

This was definitely one of the hardest Sunday puzzles in months. Clues I found tough and/or clever included [Mountain top?] for SKI CAP, [Count with many titles] for LEO TOLSTOY, [It may be indicated by a stroke] for ONE A.M., [Eye openers?] for DI[LA]TORS, [Run for dear life?] for ELOPE, [Sound in the middle of Italy] for SCHWA, and [Supplier of candy and toys for kids] for PINATA (America's Funniest Home Videos showed what happens when kids bust open a piñata and only cut veggies tumble out—cauliflower delights no child). Answers I just plain didn't know included ABELARD (who I've heard of, but in terms of "Héloise and"), KAON, Hall-of-Fame pitcher ADDIE Joss, and French conductor RENE Leibowitz. No shortage of phrases in this grid, including a lot of phrasal verbs (YIELD TO, SENT TO, [FL]EW AT) but also OPEN SESAME, NOT FAR, NEON GAS, AM RADIO, BASS F[ID]DLE, and WEA[K S]POT.


Martin Ashwood-Smith's themeless CrosSynergy puzzle features two triple-stacks of 15-letter entries, one of which is an idiomatic phrase I've never heard.

Henry Hook's Boston Globe crossword, "Yule Be Sorry," is built around a Phyllis Diller quote.

Randall Hartman's LA Times syndicated puzzle, "C-Span," gathers phrases with a pair of C's in the middle, like ERIC CLAPTON (fun clue: [Cream component?]). You know how [Obi-Wan portrayer] can be either ALEC Guinness or EWAN McGregor? In this puzzle, they're both there, along with DARTH.

Diane Epperson's Washington Post crossword, "Anniversary Gifts," plays around with things on the list of traditional anniversary gifts. The "modern" gifts listed in the second column strain credulity—cars? Groceries? Improved real estate? Oy.

The NYT's Second Sunday puzzle is another of Will Shortz's 3-D Word Hunt games, in which the challenge is to form as many 5-letter words as possible from the 3-D Boggle-type grid. The instructions say his answer list includes 51 common words and five not-so-common words, all found in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. Who doesn't like to pick up a gauntlet that's been thrown down and run away with it? After batting words around with Myles Callum, Peter Gordon, and Martin Herbach, and eliminating words that aren't in that dictionary (which I don't own), I think we've still got 60+.