May 19, 2007

Saturday, 5/19

NYT interrupted
LAT 5:24
CS 2:37
Stumper 6:50
5/4 CHE 4:50
NYT Second Sunday Cryptic 13:00

I knew it would happen. But it's so cruel for it happen on the last night of guest blog time posting. Byroned. Admittedly, it wasn't the best solving conditions. I'm really tired from blogging too late last night. And Eileen was throwing a big retirement party for one of her fellow teachers tonight, so the house was full of people. I was being very good, mingling, socializing, having a beer (which didn't help either), but I kept watching the clock and as it got past 8, the puzzles were calling. Finally I thought, I'll just sneak upstairs and polish off one puzzle really quickly. No one will ever notice. When the puzzle came off the printer and I saw it was a Byron, I knew I shouldn't have tried it. But, in a fit of hubris, I went ahead. It started innocently enough. Plenty of footholds. Steady progress. I had the whole puzzle done in around 7 minutes except for that measly little SE corner, which would only take a few seconds and I'd back downstairs mingling in no time. Wrong.

NY Times, Byron Walden, "The Saturday Slasher"

The corner looked innocent enough, only a 5x7, but only two ways in, one connecting to an impossible entry, 38A, "Acoustic instruments", and one only giving up the end letter of 5 words. (ODESSA). I even got that Mizraim was Egypt pretty quickly, thanks to attending our neighbor's Seder a few weeks ago. But then I was completely stuck. I was pretty sure it was DELTA State. OBEYS seemed right. I had GOTREAL for "Lost frivolity" (great entry). And I was 90% sure of METED for Parceled. That should have been enough to crack the corner. But I kept thinking SLAPS instead of CLAPS and FORGE instead of BARGE, and that was enough to keep JUMBO CD from falling. I knew one or two of those across entries had to be wrong, but I couldn't come up with the right combination. And what was Fit? So many meanings, and none of them did (fit, that is). Panic set in, knowing I needed a time to post. Cold sweat broke out. Then my daughter discovered me hiding out and I had to come downstairs. I actually ended up solving the corner in my head (while pretending to be social) by methodically going through letters until I got JUGS and the rest fell from there. So, there is my sad tale. On the last night of public blogging, it turned into a public flogging (hey, is that a theme?), as my state of Byrownage is laid out for all to see.

But enough of my troubles, the puzzle was of course, being a Byron, full of wonderfully fresh entries. I loved how QUARTER TO THREE spanned two entries across the second row. New informative way to clue REBA, which I didn't know was set in my home town of Houston. ALLFEMALE was an answer I hadn't seen before, but very gettable from the Supremes and Go-gos combo in the clue. I was a big ELO fan (thereby completing the destruction of my musical reputation), but I've never heard the song "Secret Messages". Great clue for a somewhat overused entry. Speaking of ELO, did you ever play their best song "Fire on High" backwards on a turntable? I did in college, and it was the coolest thing ever.

MSOLYMPIA was a great entry, but that link is not for the faint of heart. Yeesh. YUKFEST must be another original, and self-descriptive at that! Hadn't heard of DYSPNEA, but it was easily derivable from apnea. To close, I'll just STATE THE OBVIOUS and say this was a wonderfully evil Saturday puzzle.

Oh, and did you notice the FIEND made an appearance, even clued in the approprate fashion? (Devotee)

Once again, I've let it get too late tonight (really, Amy, how *do* you do this every night?), so I'll keep it brief on the other puzzles.

Chronicle of Higher Education, "University Extension" by Jim Leeds

Jeff, thanks for reminding me yesterday that I forgot to do the 5/4 CHE. I second your recommendation. Nice rebus puzzle with 5 symmetrically placed rebus squares and therefore, 10 theme entries, several with the rebus spanning word boundaries, like CRIED UNCLE and POSTAGE DUE. Well done.

LAT Saturday Themeless by Robert H. Wolfe

This one had three 15s which makes things a little easier. Some nice Mannyesque phrasing for the 15s, my favorite being GAVE THE ALL CLEAR, which is very familiar to anyone who's participated in a fire drill, but I don't remember seeing it in a puzzle before. Lots of 8's and 10's abutting and crossing the theme entries. The rest of the fill is good, but no entries stood out as spectacular.

Newsday Saturday Stumper by Merle Baker

This had many more long entries than a typical Stumper. I really liked the staggered triple tens in the center (FAR CRY FROM, AS FREE AS AIR, PRESS ENTER) intersecting an 8/11/8 coming down. ZIGGURAT is a wonderful word.

CrosSynergy, "Winners" by Martin Ashwood-Smith

Martin is the pioneer of the triple stack, but he has a much simpler puzzle today (the CS' have been on a streak of pretty easy puzzles lately). A common definition theme today, all answering to the clue "Wins". FREEWHEEL and GOTOWARDS were pretty good non-theme entries.

"If Spider-Man Were More Like a Real Spider", by Merl Reagle

This is a classic Merl grid. A few more black squares than you might usually see, but with that incredible number of horizontal theme entries, who cares? 11 long entries crammed into a 21x21 grid, filled with true Reagle groaners (my favorite, 100A, Q: "So, Spiderman, is it safe to say the the Mrs. is expecting? A: EGGSACLY).

NYT Second Sunday Puzzle, Cryptic by Richard Silvestri

I found the left half of this one fell pretty quickly, but the right half was quite tricky. Trust me, trying to solve a cryptic while sleep deprived is not recommended. I'm guessing Amy will start us on a cryptic tutorial after two weeks of British puzzles, but I'll give a very quick intro here in case you haven't figured out to solve these yet. By the way, the definitive tutorial text on Cryptics is Emily and Henry's guide. So, every cryptic constructor's goal is to get you to read the clue as a complete sentence. For example, 2D "Region around North Stadium". Hmm, parking lot? But a cryptic clue has nothing to do with the surface meaning. There are two parts, the definition and the wordplay (in either order) and your job as solver is to determine that parsing. In this case, "Stadium" is the definition, and "Region around North" is the wordplay, leading to AREA around N, or ARENA. One more example, 23A, "Wicked person embraces Republican crony". No, don't send a letter to the editor, this has nothing to do with NY Times bias, or Jack Abramoff. Here, "Crony" is the definition and "Wicked person embraces Republican" is the wordplay. Here we get Wicked Person=FIEND (hey, that's the wrong meaning of FIEND, we all know it's really a DEVOTEE!), embracing the letter R which gives us FRIEND which of course means crony. I probably shouldn't have picked two clues of the same type (containers), but I had to get that second inclusion of FIEND in today's puzzles mentioned somehow!

If you get stumped on any more clues, post a question in the comments, and someone will post an explanation I'm sure (I'll be at a roller hockey tournament most of tomorrow after attending the special HP showing of Shrek the Third in the morning).

And thus brings to a close our two weeks of guest blogging. On behalf of Linda, John, Barry, and Dave, I'd like to thank Amy for the chance to participate in this wonderful virtual community. Thanks to everyone for the comments and participation, thanks for putting up with my ridiculously late posts, and I'll see you all in the comments page. Let's all give Amy a big welcome home tomorrow. So long!