April 05, 2007

Friday, 4/6

NYS 7:47
LAT 5:48
3/23 CHE 4:30
NYT 4:28
CS 3:21

Reagle 8:44
WSJ 7:48

(updated at 9:15 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Friday)

Holy schnike! The Sun and Times crosswords I just solved this evening made me happy. However, the Sun puzzle wasn't a themeless Weekend Warrior, yesterday's wasn't a Themeless Thursday, and last Friday's was the Wacky Weekend Warrior. Am feeling themeless-Sun-deprived and developing unsightly pallor from underexposure to themeless crosswords. The NYT puzzle is a themeless one by young Will Nediger, though, and I liked that a lot.

Well, the most rebus entries ever in a daily NYT crossword was 22, in Kyle Mahowald's puzzle of January 12, 2006. Matt Ginsberg's Sun crossword, "Going All In," blows that record out of the water with 45 rebus squares (each containing [IN], as in Kyle's puzzle)—and every Across and Down entry contains at least one [IN]. Before I realized that every s[IN]gle entry included a rebus, I thought [Like a truck on a steep hill, maybe] was SLOW rather than [IN] LOW, which mucked up [IN] TRANSIT for a while. I didn't know the song from the movie musical in the clue for 24-Across, but figured it had to be S[IN]G[IN]' [IN] THE RA[IN], which was also in Kyle's puzzle. (By the way, on my Mac, the special characters in this week's Across Lite Sun puzzles have been mangled. Löwensohn looked like L¨wensohn, and Zoë became Zo%. (Tech-savvy constructor Karen Tracey may be able to iron out those glitches for those of you creating Across Lite files of the puzzles the rest of us depend on.)

Will Nediger's NYT puzzle had a bunch of Scrabbly letters (KLAXON! LOUIS XIV!), lively fill (FLAME WAR, MOON UNIT Zappa, I'VE HAD IT, LIFE-SIZE), and pop culture both classical (PIETA, a CODEX like the Book of Kells) and more contemporary (Tom WOPAT and the aforementioned MOON UNIT). Favorite clues: [Parts of 24-Down] (which was PANTS, [They cover the bottom]) for FLIES; [Best degrees] for OPTIMA; [Fiend] for NUT; [Not enlarged or shrunken] for LIFE-SIZE; [Sorrow] for GRIEVE (did you know sorrow could be a verb?); and [Shaded] for HID.

[W can be a vowel in it] is the clue for WELSH in the NYT puzzle. My travels next month will take me to Chester, England, right near the northeast corner of Wales. Can anyone tell me something fun to do in northern Wales, other than point at signs in Welsh? I saw an episode of Rick Steves' Europe that, quite frankly, bored me silly. If you know of any must-see stops in northern Wales (or Liverpool, which Rick Steves made out to be frightfully dull in the same episode of his show), please shoot me an e-mail and enlighten me.


Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy crossword has three "Non-Stop" theme entries in a grid with themeless-puzzle amounts of open space. Easy clues, though, keep it from feeling like a themeless puzzle.

Donna S. Levin's LA Times puzzle puns on fish names in movie titles: [Film about fish paternity?] is THE CODFATHER. [North Dakota's state tree, e.g.] turns out to be ELM; back in the day when I had a beau across the border from Fargo, rumor had it that North Dakota's state tree was the utility pole. Not much in the way of forests there, apparently.

Todd McClary's March 23 Chronicle of Higher Ed puzzle, "A Letter From College (Translation)," reads between the lines of a slacker's letter home from college: SKIPPING CLASSES and FLUNKING OUT are the unspoken subtext. New word for me in SYRINX. According to Greek mythology, Syrinx asked the river nymphs to help her fend off that horndog, Pan. The nymphs transformed her into hollow reeds that made music when blown across. Pan gathered up some of those reeds and slashed them to make his pan pipe, or syrinx. Sounds like he wasn't too good with rejection and maybe needed to learn how to treat women with a modicum of respect, no?

Merl Reagle's Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "The Brooklyn Dropout," changes TH sounds to T, as in TANKS FOR WATCHING. Solid enough theme, but it didn't really grab me. Another unfamiliar word lurking in this puzzle: ORINDA, California, which Wikipedia says has fewer than 20,000 residents but is "a well-known bedroom community in the San Francisco Bay Area." Never heard of the school in the clue for ORINDA, either—JFK University "was founded in 1964 to serve adult students wishing to continue their formal education."

Later on:

The Wall Street Journal puzzle by Randolph Ross ("Oh Brother!") wasn't posted earlier today, but it's there now. The theme entries include famous brothers (or "brothers"): DOOBIE, SMOTHERS (I gave a friend a Smothers Brothers DVD for Christmas last year), LEVER, PARKER, MILLS, BLUES, RIGHTEOUS (Wikipedia says the duo got their name from a Marine shouting out, "That was righteous, brothers!" at a concert), SMITH (I miss the chewy Pine Brothers cough drops), and WRIGHT .