January 11, 2007

Friday, 1/12

NYS 12:00
NYT 5:55
LAT 4:08
CS 2:59

Reagle 8:52
WSJ 8:11

(post updated at 9:15 a.m. Friday)

Hey, if you haven't done the Friday Sun crossword yet, consider reading the Across Lite Notepad before you start. I think it'd be more fun that way.

The NYT puzzle is by Sherry Blackard, and I want to know this: Why did I spend so much time trying different answers for 1-Across? There should be a limit to how many wrong answers one tries before moving along to another part of the grid! Sherry's concoction felt a little harder than most triple-stack extravaganzas (this one has three sets of triple-stacked 15's crossed by a vertical 15)—though somebody else may visit the NYT applet later on and demonstrate that it wasn't that difficult after all. Anyway...I quickly guessed that 1-Across started with ISSUE, but unfortunately, A STATEMENT and STATEMENTS both fit the space just as well as A MANIFESTO does. Terrific batch of 15's, isn't it? I particularly liked TRANSLITERATION (which is a cool word) and CAST IRON SKILLET. Other favorite clues and entries: [Something that's often made up] for FACE, DOGLEG, [Joins in space] for DOCKS, ARTURO TOSCANINI, and HOLD ALL THE CARDS.

Brendan Emmett Quigley's Sun puzzle, "You Can Say That Again," is unusual by the numbers: a 15x16 grid, with 83 entries, 50 black squares, and 20 (mostly) short theme entries, not all in symmetrical spots. Those 20 theme entries are unclued, or rather, clued only with numbers. The Across Lite Notepad holds the key to understanding what the unclued words are: "The 20 numbered clues are the rankings of the most common nouns in the English language according to the Oxford English Dictionary." The solving process felt a bit like playing Gamedesign's crossword game, where you're filling in a grid based on letter patterns rather than clues (which can be most diverting, and hones your pattern-recognition skills)—and also a bit like The Christmas Story's Ovaltine decoder ring letdown. Yes, it's a coup to fit 80+ theme squares and 20 different theme entries into the grid—but a fourth of the puzzle is unclued, and dagnabbit, I like interpreting clues. I enjoy fighting my way through a challenging crossword, but it would appear that I prefer the challenge to arise from tricky clues.


Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy puzzle's pretty easy, but it's got a baker's dozen of longer (7 to 10 letters) fill entries.

Jack McInturff's LA Times puzzle includes LITCHI, which came up in the NYT the other day. Yes, it's usually spelled lychee, but in crosswords, it's invariably litchi. Constructors: Can't somebody throw us a LYCHEE for once?

Brendan Emmett Quigley's byline also shows up on today's Wall Street Journal puzzle, with a quote from Bill Gates. I definitely prefer a BEQ with more long entries and clues for everything!

Merl Reagle's Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle pained me. Yes, I have a pretty high tolerance for puns, but this particular batch subs BARD for all or part of nine different words, and...this approach didn't thrill me.