April 26, 2007

Friday, 4/27

NYS 8:57
NYT 6:40
4/13 CHE 4:38
LAT 3:22
CS 2:58

Reagle 9:16
WSJ 7:22

(updated at 9:10 a.m. Friday)

Crossword puzzle junkies tend to love language and the discussion thereof, and I think you'll enjoy this dissection of Thomas Friedman's tortured prose (by a philosophy prof and blogger). It entertained me—who doesn't appreciate metaphors tangled up like spaghetti in tree branches? Rob also links to the "Moustache of Understanding" cartoon, which I adore.

Byron Walden's Sun Weekend Warrior hit me like a ton of Saturday themeless puzzles (I'm feeling a tad Friedmaniacal). I don't think it was supposed to be quite so hard, so maybe this crossword caught me when my synapses were stuck in rush-hour traffic. How was it for you—like a really tough Saturday puzzle, or not so hard at all?

The spots that snagged me included 30-Down, [Susan Constant destination], which wanted to be DIME STORE rather than JAMESTOWN, which has plenty of the same letters. CAT LITTER eluded me because I was trying to summon up a 9-letter ingredient of kitty litter (d'oh!). I didn't know EXTREME BEER existed (and considered SUPREME). I know ALETA is from Prince Valiant, but not that she's drawn by Hal Foster. Mort SAHL didn't come to mind readily—WAHL, DAHL? ERICK Dampier plays for the Dallas Mavericks. Holy cow, he's 6'11"! According to the "Trivia" section in that Wikipedia article, Shaquille O'Neal likes to tar him with the female brush, which makes me think Shaq's naught but a big ass.

Clues I liked and/or clues that stymied me: [Front end?] for LOWERCASE T; [It's used to lower the stakes] is a MAUL; [See stars, perhaps] is CATCH A SHOW (not WATCH A SHOW); [Split] is BLOW, as in "Let's blow this pop stand"; [Minority leader?] is YOUTH PASTOR; [Plays poker?] is non-card-game-related JABS, as in pokes; [Carte man?] Frenchifies the king in a deck of cards as le ROI; [Banks, for example] is Ernie Banks, fondly known as Mr. CUB; [Pot, to a Colombian] is crossword stalwart OLLA; [Root that usually takes a while?] is ERST, as in erstwhile; and [Gets a load of] is, cleverly, AMASSES. I like the Britishism IN HOSPITAL (into which I always insert an American "the" when I encounter it in my editing work) for [Like someone being anaesthetised, perhaps].

One trivia bit I knew and two I didn't: DAV Pilkey writes the Captain Underpants books. They're crude and tasteless, and kids love 'em. LL Cool J's early oeuvre apparently included a Bigger and DEFFER album. (That LL Cool J sure stays in shape: have you seen those abs?) ALEX HALEY [interviewed Miles Davis in the first Playboy interview].

Favorite entries: EYE CONTACT, SNEAKING IN, CAT LITTER, AUTO LOANS, WETNAPS, and OKEECHOBEE. FLOWERLET, clued as [Bud light?], seems to be one of those words (like LOCKLET in another recent crossword) that appear mainly in unabridged dictionaries. This one has a wee spider on it.

Moving along to the Friday NYT by Randolph Ross, I begin by grumbling that SARASOTA SPRINGS is rather small and little-known, and entering SARASOTA, FLORIDA didn't smooth the way through the bottom right sextant of the grid (I kinda like this six-section crossword). The upper 15-letter entry dawned on me slowly. Downtown Chicago has plenty of moveable bascule bridges, but I can't say I've ever seen a DRAWBRIDGE AHEAD sign. When the 15s slow you down, the whole puzzle gets mucked up. I liked OPEN SESAME and KARATE CHOP; SOPHOCLES; the O'NEILLS, who could also be clued [My grandma's relatives]; and the preponderance of fairly straightforward words. And...now my husband has started The Office, so the TV calls to me.


Martin Ashwood-Smith goes the redundancy route in his CrosSynergy puzzle, and Dan Naddor plays with puns using state names in the LA Times. Ed Early's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword has a straight-up quote theme (meh) and includes a name I'd never encountered before: INONU was the second president of Turkey. Easy Wall Street Journal puzzle from Richard Silvestri, with an "Insider Training" theme in which two adjacent letters in each theme entry switch places. ATOMIC PLIÉ plays on atomic pile, not a term I already knew.

Merl Reagle's Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Floaters," is like a game of Battleship, except that the boats are hidden in a 21x21 grid and their names are spelled out. Most are short names (4 to 6 letters), and the two longer-named boats are signaled in the clues for the entries they're embedded in.