January 06, 2007

Sunday, 1/7

NYT elevenish or twelveish
LAT 10:09
WaPo 9:09
BG 8:46
CS 4:34

(post updated at 9 a.m. Sunday)

A minute or so into the Sunday NYT, the phone rang, setting off a chain reaction of events. Okay, a really, really short chain—if I inadvertently move the mouse's scroll-wheel button, whoosh! The Java applet gets addlepated and freezes up like an evil nemesis trying to freeze the world. So I switched to Across Lite to finish up Ashish Vengsarkar's delightful puzzle, "Spellcheck."

Before I headed online for the crossword, I exchanged Christmas gifts with a friend, who gave me Letter Perfect by David Sacks, a book about the letters of the alphabet. When I was a kid, I was a sucker for those illustrations that show how letters morphed over time—say, the Phoenician ox-turned-aleph that's adapted into a Greek alpha and, eventually, our Roman A. And this book has plenty of that! The G chapter covers the crazy gh spellings, the G-string and G spot, which root languages give words with hard or soft G's, slag and ghoul and gargantuan. Yes, I think I'm going to enjoy this book.

The "Spellcheck" puzzle harks back to childhood memories, too—William Steig's CDB? book. As in, IMNNML = I am an animal. Vengsarkar's theme includes eight phrases that can be partly spelled out like that (e.g., BURNED IN F-E-G for effigy), plus a 5-"letter" word in the center of the puzzle, XPDNC (expediency). I'm now too tired to remark cogently upon this crossword, other than to say that (1) the theme's a winner, (2) I look forward to more from this constructor, who's got a knack for interesting themes, and (3) can you imagine how much harder it would have been if the CDB-type squares hadn't been circled? It was tough enough even with the circles—especially in the aforementioned BURNED IN F-E-G section.


James Sajdak's LA Times syndicated crossword, "Misinterpreted NBA Headlines," is a fun challenge. I almost always esteem the Washington Post Sunday puzzle, and this week's offering from Harvey Estes ("Before and After") is no exception. Liked the gimmick in Henry Hook's Boston Globe puzzle, "Something's Up"—I do appreciate gimmicky crosswords, I do.