March 15, 2007

Friday, 3/16

LAT 4:57
NYT 4:51
3/2 CHE 4:34
NYS 4:12
CS 2:56

WSJ 7:32
Reagle 7:23

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

Ah, Friday! The day when I seek out crosswords from the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Wall Street Journal, and Merl Reagle's one-man crossword factory. The day when—if I'm lucky—the New York Sun'll have a tough themeless puzzle (though I have no objection to the alternate-week tough themed puzzles) to balance out a New York Times themeless. And the LA Times and CrosSynergy puzzles don't take the day off, either, so there are a couple easier crosswords, too.

This is a Sun Friday Weekend Warrior week, and this week's puzzle is by Karen Tracey. Like many of her crosswords, this one has high-Scrabble-value letters (Z,Q, X, J, K) sprinkled throughout the grid, geography (ancient PHOENICIA, Italy's TARANTO [huh?], and America's own APPOMATTOX, OKEMO Mountain, and SITKA), colloquial terms (yummy FLAPJACKS, a CHICK FLICK, "I HEAR YOU, "UH-HUH," and "THINK AGAIN"), and pop culture (BOGIE, KUNTA KINTE from Roots, GRIZABELLA from Cats, and Mary's friend RHODA, to name a few). Special citation for coolness with the "cosmic jazz" of SUN RA and the Arkestra and a dystopian novel I never heard of, THE / IRON HEEL. My favorite clues: [Giving life to, as cel bodies?] for ANIMATING, ["Dziekuje," across the Oder] for DANKE, [Gross root?] for DOZEN, and [Paper work] for ORIGAMI. I kinda wish the clues had been harder, though. I love to be vexed by hard crossword puzzles. (P.S. Am I the only one who likes to pronounce it a-POM-a-tox and use it in a sentence like "Appomattox o' your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog!"?)

It's possible Will Shortz is gaslighting Eric Berlin. Two weeks ago, Eric had another Friday NYT puzzle and blogged that he'd thought the previous one was his last in the pipeline, and yet he's also got this week's Friday puzzle as well as last Sunday's. I could've snuck in under the 4-minute mark for this one if not for the baseball aphasia I suffer from. [Make a sacrifice, perhaps] shouted sports to me, but I put in PUNT instead of BUNT, leaving DAP (which is a verb) in place of DAB for [Bit]. (And yet I got LASORDA with just the L. It's a selective aphasia.) Eric has OSMIUM, while Karen had ACTINIUM in the Sun puzzle—it must be Element Day. Eric also has a few Scrabbly letters, lots of wide-open white space in the middle of the grid (well, above and below the middle, to be exact). I like [A.A.A. offering] being JUMP rather than the stale RTE; STATIC clued as [Complaints, informally]; and [Holy smoke?] for INCENSE. What did ERNEST Thayer (as in [Poet Thayer and others] write? "Casey at the Bat"; again with the baseball!


Colin Gale's Wall Street Journal puzzle (really Mike Shenk's) is called "Product Placement," and the theme entries contain an embedded company or product name in the circled squares. After getting the first one, I worked on getting the other theme entries with minimal crossings. A puzzle within the puzzle—always fun. Took me a while to figure out why [You might have a shot at it] was BAR, even though there was another shot/bar clue/answer combo a day or two ago. And it was a week or two ago that I learned PROJET was a [Treaty draft] and I did remember that one today, so I'm definitely educable.

Merl Reagle's Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "A Re-Sounding Success," also has a puzzle within the crossword. Each of 12 theme entries is a famous person's name (hooray, I like names in crosswords!), and the surname has a heteronym—an unrelated word (or phrase, here) that's spelled the same but pronounced differently. E.g., "ESAI says that MORALE'S just as important as talent on a movie set." The me loved the theme!