January 04, 2007

Friday, 1/5

LAT 6:05
NYS 5:34
NYT 4:48
CS 3:29
CHE—n/a (winter break—1/5 puzzle in 2 wks.)

Reagle 8:58
WSJ 8:33

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

What a fun themeless crossword by Paula Gamache! I loved most of the 10- and 11-letter entries in her Friday NYT puzzle, not to mention plenty of the clues and the overall happy solving gestalt. Patrick Berry's Weekend Warrior in the Sun felt slightly less just-plain-fun, but a bit more challenging, and I'm equally pleased by being entertained or challenged.

Paula's NYT puzzle had so many highlights, I won't mention them all. SPEED DATING and UNH-UNH are extra-zippy. Two songs (REBEL REBEL and THAT'S AMORE) abut each other, and you can also sing along with NATALIE COLE and DAY-O. (I first put down NAT KING COLE until I realized he wouldn't have had any posthumous solo CUTS.) The Coles share 7 letters in their names, and the word VARIETAL shares 7 letters with parietal; how many other 8-letter word pairs are there that differ by only one letter? My favorite clues included [One who got held up, maybe] for LATE ARRIVAL, [Slate evaluator] for VOTER, [You can see right through them] for PANES, [Falcon's home] for US AIR FORCE (I'm assuming that a Falcon is a kind of jet—anyone?), and [Top secrets?] for HAIRPIECES. (My father-in-law tells a joke in which there's confusion between "hairpiece" and "herpes"; telling the joke with an authentic foreign accent, and pronouncing the words the same, is key to the joke. Alas, I don't remember the rest of it.)

Both the NYT and Patrick's Sun crossword included the word MARES, and I learned a mythological tidbit from the Sun clue: [___ of Diomedes (animals captured by Hercules)]. Loved the double-Z crisscross between JAZZ HANDS and ZZ TOP (whose "Velcro Fly" I've never heard of), the O-CEDAR mop brand advertised so heavily during my childhood, [Feeding tubes] for ESOPHAGI, FREE LOVE, ONION DOME, [It sucks] for ASPIRATOR, and [Works on a bit?] for CHAMPS. Seeing SHEL Silverstein in the grid reminds me that I have got to start foisting Silverstein poems on Ben, who should appreciate their wordplay. (I think my boy might have the puzzlin' knack—in copying the word horse for schoolwork, he started at the right and spelled the word backwards to the left. Are the other first-graders doing that?) And this last clue I didn't even read until just now, having gotten it through the crossings: [It's used to fire someone who's late] for PYRE. (!!!)


And look at Lee Glickstein and Nancy Salomon's Wall Street Journal puzzle! Really—if you don't seek out the WSJ puzzle each week, get today's offering, called "Trade Shows." The "trade shows" theme is brilliantly executed (though it took me a while to grok onto what was going on with the theme entries), and there's no shortage of lively fill and clues.

Merl Reagle's Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "The Constancy of Consonants," has 10 theme entries. The top and bottom pairs of theme entries run next to each other, with a 9-letter fill entry stacked up there, too. And each of the four long fill entries running vertically hook three theme entries together. Wide-open spaces and long entries, yum. (The consonants theme makes me hanker for another one of those vowel-less crosswords—is anyone making one of those for the Sun, Games, or an NYT Second Sunday puzzle?)

Curtis Yee's LA Times crossword is a (dreaded) quip puzzle, but with plenty of sparkling fill and knotty clues, and a quip with a decent punchline, I actually liked it. I so rarely like quip/quote puzzles, it's got to be a sign of quality and difficulty when I enjoy one. Well done, Curtis!