February 15, 2007

Friday, 2/16

LAT 4:45
2/2 CHE 4:40
NYS 4:36
NYT 4:26
CS 3:25

Reagle 9:54
WSJ (untimed)

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

Not only is there a Karen Tracey Weekend Warrior for Friday, but one of the "What the…? Who?" entries from her last NYT themeless crossword—ELENI Mandell—leapt off the page of Entertainment Weekly today. Her new album, Miracle of Five, got a good review. "With her penchants for torchy jazz and Porter-era pop, this long-time L.A. favorite is like a funnier Norah Jones or a less daffy Nellie McKay….It's a perfect bedtime album for grown-ups." So all of us who had no idea who she was, now we know a smidgen about her. She'd better hit the big time, 'cause those Nicholas Gage/Kate Nelligan clues for ELENI have been churning for two decades.

Two other recent puzzles handed me a couple answers for Karen's Weekend Warrior in the Sun. The XYZ AFFAIR wouldn't have come to mind so readily if not for the Chronicle of Higher Education theme I saw last week (political scandals). And [Additional epithet] is AGNOMEN, which wasn't a familiar word until this week. This Scrabbly puzzle was a fun solve—1-Across was ZAMBEZI, which suggested that this might be one of Karen's especially ZQX-packed grids (5 Z's, 2 X's, a J, and 3 K's). That suspicion certainly made it a lot easier to make educated guesses elsewhere. Favorite morsels of cluing and filling goodness: [Name on the range?] for AMANA, PASSEL (I do like that word), [Having a lot to lose] for OBESE, COVER GIRL, the combo of [Business head?]/AGRI and [Business heads]/BOSSES, and the [Food eaten with gravy] pairing of ALPO and SOP.

Charles Barasch's NYT felt equally hard (i.e., not all that hard for a Friday puzzle). His grid features four 15-letter entries near the outer edges, interlocking at the corners. I liked the idiomatic STRANGE GOINGS-ON ([Unexplained phenomena]), the THRILLA IN MANILA, the PRISONER OF ZENDA, and a CAST OF THOUSANDS. Also the jail sentence, FIVE TO TEN; PASSING FAD; PUTT OUT; [Swing alternative] for ROCK music; the TOVES from "Jabberwocky"; and [Put down] for PENNED (as in "put down on paper"). Words that came out of nowhere but, fortunately, had crossings I knew: the AUBE River that feeds the SEINE; home-run champ Tony ARMAS; SETOSE (hello, derivative of crosswordese SETA!); AHERNE for [Brian of "Juarez," 1939], and Henry Clay's Lexington, KY, estate, ASHLAND.


Merl Reagle has come up with 14 MEN'S NAMES to play a word game with in "Who's the Guy in the Back?" (his Sunday puzzle for the Philadelphia Inquirer and other papers). You might ask, "Why isn't this paragraph so ___, ___?" And I'd reply, "Well, if I wrote more, I'd end up giving away the answers, and I don't want to deprive you of that fun." (I'm almost done with Volume 1 of Merl Reagle's Sunday Crosswords and will have to order another volume or two soon.)

Manny Nosowsky's Wall Street Journal puzzle marks the Chinese New Year with a dozen theme entries.

In Frank Virzi's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Designer Genes," I learned that the wags working in Drosophila genetics have given no fewer than six nonscientific-sounding names to fruit fly genes.

Elsewhere, there's a quip puzzle from CrosSynergy's Patrick Jordan and a move-the-S-to-the-other-word puzzle from Timothy Powell in the LA Times.