Is it just me, or has the Times crossword forum been nonfunctional pretty much all day? I so enjoy seeing the British Airways ad atop the "Service Unavailable" message, because I'll be flying BA in May, and I'm beginning to get a Pavlovian reaction: British Airways = 12 hours of waiting. Hmm, maybe that's not what they're hoping their ads will evoke.
Odd-looking crossword grids abound—Michael Shteyman with the NYT puzzle, and Barry C. Silk with left/right symmetry in the Sun.
In Michael's, the four corner squares are black, but they are not connected to form a big X. The theme entries, if you can call them a theme, are four entries around the grid's perimeter plus the two that cross in the middle, all of them with two X's. (XANAX and XERXES are bonus XX entries not in symmetrical spots.) I love Scrabbly letters in crosswords, and this one has a baker's dozen of X's. Toughest words: the [Brazilian dance] MAXIXE, TELESTO the [Moon of Saturn], and the race horse ALYDAR. Favorite entries: all the XX words, SAT PREP, EX-MARINES, and AT AN ANGLE. Favorite clues: [Private affair?] for EXTRAMARITAL SEX, ["Shifting gears a little" and others] for SEGUES. And have I mentioned that I like the X business?
I didn't notice the fullness of the theme, if you can call it that, in Barry C. Silk's Sun puzzle, "T Squares." Sure, there's a big T in the middle of the grid and that long TEETERTOTTERING had a lot of T's in it—but every single answer contains at least one T, too. (I'm fine with the clues not all starting with T.) I never knew the Wait Until Dark bad guy was named Harry ROAT. ROAT? Is that a real surname? Apparently it is, and it's Scottish. Military abbrevs. in both of these puzzles—TSGT is short for Technical Sergeant in the Air Force, whereas the NYT's SGTMAJ is a Sergeant Major in the Marines and is ranked above the TSGT, according to the chart at the latter Wiki link. Favorite clues: [College basketball Hall of fame] for SETON Hall University, [Sudden death can end it] for TIE, and [What hyperactive people might be on?] for THE GO. My first guess for the hyper clue was DRUGS, giving me a U at the end of the sudden death word...FLU? That's terrible! Fortunately, a trusty time zone clue and old standby NTH coaxed me out of the FLU idea.
Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy puzzle makes note of another key day this week (aside from Pi Day and St. Patrick's Day) in "Beware the Ides of March."
Kelsey Blakley's LA Times puzzle includes IDES in the fill, but unrelated to the theme. I had a hard time teasing out the theme in this one. Across the middle was GARRISON KEILLOR, which backwards is ROLLIE K? NO SIR, RAG. That was unilluminating. Eventually it dawned on me that the three long Across entries bound together by a vertical word down the middle began with POST, GARRISON, BASE, and FORT. Those ruminations took place after I finished the puzzle, but during the solve, I stumbled over BUMBLE, [Make a mess of], which really wanted to be BUNGLE, FUMBLE, or JUMBLE. It didn't help that the M came from Kristen MARTA, No, wait, it's MARTA Kristen; either way, not a name stored in my pop-culture bank before today.
March 14, 2007