January 25, 2007

Friday, 1/26

NYT 5:53
LAT 5:29
NYS 4:44
CS 3:45
12/12 CHE [whoops, forgot to note my time]

WSJ 9:53
Reagle 7:43

(post updated at 9:45 a.m. Friday)

Loved the theme in Alan Arbesfeld's Sun crossword, "Add a Line"! I'd enjoy another crossword with the same type of theme, and I'd enjoy assorted twists on this theme. How about you? And if you haven't done this one already but usually solve via keyboard, consider printing it out and solving on paper.

Back in unthemed land, Mike Nothnagel constructed the Friday NYT crossword with a rather sinuous grid pattern. Alas, I felt stymied on the wavelength front, as I kept having no idea what the clues were getting at. The slowest corner for me was the upper left, where I dabbled with NIXON instead of AGNEW, GROW for BREW, ASK AGAIN for ASK ABOUT, drew a blank on A, B, OR C for [Multiple-choice choices] and OAK for [Bourbon flavorer], and couldn't make any sense out of ONONO**** (which turned out to be ON ONE KNEE). I didn't finish that corner until after escaping to the rest of the puzzle, where THERE'S NO I IN TEAM sparkled with its triteness (what a shame it's so "in the language"!). As did the combo of MAYBE NOT and IT DEPENDS, the GINSU knife, and NONPAREIL (I do like Sno-Caps chocolate nonpareils). Clues that I liked and/or was stymied by: [Hardly windy] for CURT, [Trailer makeup] for SCENES, [Single or double, say] for BED (nope, not a baseball HIT), [It helps keep one's place] for RENT, and [Boxer's org.] for AKC (what was it, about a week ago that a similar clue was used for WBA? Shortz is messing with us!).

Going back to the Sun puzzle, in the theme entries, there's an extra stroke added to one letter (which means solving by keyboard gives a slightly less elegant version of the "aha" moment). Those people who use lowercase letters to fill a grid? Hey, this puzzle is proof that they're wrong and should stick to capitals like the rest of us. GO OUT OF STYLE gets another line tacked onto the first O, transforming it into an Q in GQ OUT OF STYLE. In the other theme entries, an F becomes an E; a P, an R; and an I, a T. Very few crosswords play with the way we physically write letters, but I find it an entertaining slant. (Aside: On the windowsill behind my friend's kitchen sink last weekend, I marveled at her wee aquarium of BRINE shrimp, lovingly known as Sea-Monkeys. Astonishingly, she said her kids have no interest in the Sea-Monkeys. But they're awesome!)


Randolph Ross's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Education Reform," has a theme that's solid but perhaps not so exciting. But I truly enjoyed it—great clues, great fill, overall a great puzzle. I amused myself by being terribly confused by **GNUMP*, [Show whose title character wore a Tigers cap]. My brain simply refused to parse it as MAGNUM P.I.

Joy Andrews' January 12 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "A Bone-ified Puzzle," uses bony puns in the four 15-letter theme entries. My favorite was [Garbo's request to have her fibula removed?], I WANT TIBIA ALONE. There were a couple new-to-me words in this puzzle—ISHI, a California Native American who survived a massacre that eradicated most of his tribe, and the card game PIQUET.

In Merl Reagle's Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Oh, It's You," O becomes U. Cutest theme entry: [Overdid it at a love-in?] for WENT HUG-WILD.