February 08, 2007

Friday, 2/9

NYS 6:34
LAT 5:00
NYT 4:40
1/26 CHE 3:47
CS 3:10

WSJ 9:16
Reagle 7:39

I'm alternating between gaping blankly at the computer monitor and yawning—just a garden-variety rhinovirus, but it's making 9:30 at night feel like midnight. So I'll try to be brief and open the floor to observations, plaudits, and grumbles about the Friday puzzles.

The themeless NYT was constructed by Eric Berlin. Nothing too terribly exotic, aside from the "Benny Hill" theme, YAKETY SAX, which I learned the name of just last year via another crossword. But then I sort of forgot the title and keyed in YAKETY YAK, which made the [Masters topics] answer appear to be SEKLIVES until I had an AWAKENING and found the SEX LIVES. I like how GOES DEAF segues down into OUTER EAR, [One end of a canal], which sits atop another end, the car's FRONT END. The clues didn't seem too tough, nothing to really STYMIE. Can't say for sure if I had any idea [Votaries] were ADHERENTS, but the crossings gave it away.

Patrick Blindauer's Sun crossword, "Optical Delusion," explains its nonsensical theme entries in a Notepad note. Some sort of letter-substition code, I guess, with selected answers giving clues—too woozy to make sense out of it now. While I was solving, the fact that the theme entries looked like random strings of letters meant the vertical crossings had to do all the heavy lifting...and, this being a themed Friday Sun crossword, those clues weren't going to give up their secrets too easily. [Prince Eric's dog in "The Little Mermaid"]?? Really? *AX. I took a wild guess that the answer was MAX, but I've never seen the movie, so that was a lucky stab. And my Hebrew alphabet's awfully rusty, so YOD wasn't far from being a wild guess, either. And [Noodle ___] is RONI, but...what is that" A scary, over-processed box o' noodles made by the Rice-A-Roni folks? I also didn't know [Singers Evans and Quin], but figured SARAS was more likely than something with another vowel in the second square. Favorite clues: [Spin a yarn?] for MACRAME, [Hamlet's "To be," e.g.] for IAMB, [Slugger?] for FIST (which is also "F is T" for the code, I think), and [Goals for some people in beds] for TANS. Oh, and [Madison, e.g.] for SLOB (as in Oscar Madison in "The Odd Couple"), and [Bean shakes?] for NOS. And also [Peter and the Wolfe?] for NEROS.

Good night, all.


When you see an unfamiliar name in a byline accompanied by Nancy Salomon's name, you suspect the puzzle may be the constructor's debut. If the LA Times puzzle by Pancho Harrison and Nancy is indeed a debut, congrats! I rather liked the add-ES-at-the-beginning theme, particularly the ESCAROLE KING. I hadn't known that the [Undealt portion of the deck] of cards was called TALON; did you know that talon also means "an ogee molding"?

Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy puzzle, like the LA Times crossword, includes a handful of lively 8-letter entries.

Patrick Berry's crossword from the January 26 Chronicle of Higher Ed, "Affairs of State," features seven "___ Affair" government scandals from the 1790s to the 2000s. I hadn't known of the TRENT or PEGGY EATON Affairs. Easier than most of the CHE puzzles, wasn't it? Favorite clue: [Looking into?] for X-RAYING.

The Wall Street Journal crossword, "Stock Exchange," is by "Judith Seretto" (one of editor Mike Shenk's pseudonyms). It's a rebus puzzle, but the rebused entries aren't limited to the longest acrosses. Those two sections in the grid's northeast and one in the southwest were eluding me until I thought to see if a rebus square would help out. My mental thesaurus is on the fritz at the moment, so I'll call this a very nice puzzle and be done with it.

For Merl Reagle's Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Seek Your Booty," the so-long-you-can't-see-it-in-Across-Lite hint in the clue for 5-Across says "Hint to the buried treasure: The G in this answer is also the first letter of the word GOLD, which can be seen running diagonally down to the left. Can you find the other five diagonally hidden pirate treasures?" Okay, good, another word-search-within-the-crossword crossword. I like puzzles within other puzzles. This crossword is packed with pirate-themed clues, which is fun—for example, SEXY is clued [Like Johnny Depp, perhaps], and Depp plays Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. It took me an extra several minutes to find the hidden treasures. (This puzzle's going in my "great puzzles" folder. Entertaining!)