June 28, 2007

Friday, 6/29

NYS 9:59
NYT 5:21
Jonesin' 4:20
6/15 CHE 3:44
LAT 3:39
CS 2:50

WSJ 7:59

(updated at 1:15 p.m. Friday)

You see those numbers up there? The 9:59 for the themed Friday Sun crossword by Patrick Blindauer? Not a typo. Maybe this puzzle targeted the gaps in my knowledge with remarkable effectiveness, or it's actually pretty damned hard. I look forward to finding out if it was just me.

The Friday NYT by Mike Nothnagel did not fight me nearly as hard, though there were some intersecting mystery answers in the lower right quadrant that required a few educated wild-ass guesses. The [Nintendo game with exercises for mental acuity] is BRAIN AGE. Right above it is the Will Rogers movie David HARUM. The two cross the ["As I Lay Dying" character], ANSE, which I should have known because I've seen the answer before, but maybe only with easier crossings. I will remember ANSE next time: Apparently the character treated his grown son's broken leg by pouring cement on it. (This turned out to be a bad idea.) I read two Faulkner novels in school, but not this one. Anyway, the rest of the puzzle was much more pliable, starting with THE FONZ at 1-Across (a gimme). Liked HELL WEEK, obliquely clued as [Taxing preinitiation period], and ANAKIN SKYWALKER strutting across the middle of the grid. Completely flummoxed by KENTUCKY DERBY's clue, [Omaha and Spokane were once in it]. Ha! Also liked [Kind of season] for FLU; QBERT (which I have heard of, unlike BRAIN AGE); tasty S'MORES; [Some shorts] for SPEEDOS (always have to wonder if "shorts" in a clue means apparel or short films); [Not stout] for AFRAID; Nancy's friend SLUGGO; and [Follower of the bottom line]? for BASS. This one wasn't quite as much fun as the previous Nothnagel. Poor Mike: He has set the bar so high that sometimes he just limbos under it.

Patrick B2's Friday Sun puzzle, "Noble Prizes," slaughtered me. It would have helped if (a) I knew the chemical symbols for the noble gases, in order (HE for helium, NE for neon, AR for argon, KR for krypton, XE for xenon, and RN for radon—I took a solving break to Google them because the crossings and the clues just were not yielding), and (b) if I'd figured out more quickly that only two of the six added the element to the beginning of a phrase. (The best one: adding XE to the Korean War to get KOREAN WAXER, [Asian Brazilian expert?]) If that weren't enough, I also found myself at a loss in the upper left corner. I couldn't think what [Carmen, for one] could be other than OPERA (it's MEZZO). [Part of the pen name of the author who also once used the pseudonym Pierre Andrézel]? Never knew that Karen Blixen, a.k.a. ISAK Dinesen, also passed for a Frenchman. [Italian wrap] sounds like fashion or a calzone, not an ancient Roman TOGA. The [Spanish letter after cu] is ERE? I never took Spanish. And I'd never heard of [Pop painter Alex] KATZ, though his work is cool. Scattered elsewhere were other tough clues: [Long flower] for NILE RIVER, [Certain hydrometeor] for FOG, [Anton ___ (character voiced by Peter O'Toole in "Ratatouille")] for EGO (the movie's not even out yet!! Though after doing this puzzle, I read a review that says Anton Ego is the snooty restaurant critic.), that damned [Ship that brought the Statue of Liberty to the U.S.] for ISERE (and I know I just saw a similar clue recently, but failed to remember the answer the second time around), and [Push on a casino floor] for TIE (huh? Is this about poker?). Deadly! Favorite clues that did not do bodily harm: [Personal letter?: Abbr.] for INIT; [World leader?] for DISNEY; [Sweden's capital?] for ESS; and [To mate?] for FRO. Mind you, when I say that a crossword slaughtered me, I'm not complaining. Far from it!


This week's Wall Street Journal puzzle is by Randolph Ross. Sure, "Fill 'Er Up!" has about twice as many squares as Patrick's Sun puzzle. It still took 20% less time, and not because it was particularly easy for a Sunday-sized puzzle. Each theme entry is GASsed up with the word GAS added somewhere. My favorite theme entry: SLEEPING GASBAG, clued as [Braggart in bed?].

Matt Jones' Jonesin' puzzle, "S_Y Anything," has five phrases beginning with S_Y words other than say. A terrific quintet of answers: (1) SHY BLADDER. Standard daily papers shy away from references to pee, but the next-generation puzzles, as Al Sanders guest-blogged while I was on vacation in May, dispense with those reservations. I generally like the results unless they'e overly crude—and I like SHY BLADDER. (2) SLY STALLONE, good nickname usage. (3) SOY MILK. My advice to you: If you ever have a houseguest who drinks soy milk, don't leave it sitting in your fridge beyond the expiration date. It turns evil. (4) SPY MAGAZINE. I enjoyed that publication before its demise. (5) SKY MARSHAL. Do you eyeball your fellow plane passengers to see if anyone looks like a federal air marshal? Crossword-name alert: There haven't been many famous LILAs, but the letter combo is pretty tempting for constructors. Matt clues LILA as ["Yippy Ky Yay" singer McCann]. She's a country singer, if that song title didn't tip you off.

Jim Holland's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "Audio Books," draws out homophones in book titles. My favorite of the four theme entries was BRAVE GNU WORLD. Overall, a much easier puzzle than most CHE crosswords, I thought.

Easier still was Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy offering, "Gimme a 36-Across!" 36-Across is BREAK, so won't you all join me in singing the Kit Kat jingle?

In Billie Truitt's LA Times crossword, the theme entries have an -OW tacked onto the end. In the non-theme fill, PHONE TAG is a terrific entry, isn't it? I also liked the Indian food two-fer, with NAN bread (conveniently available from Trader Joe's freezer case!) and the spicy lentil dish, DAL. (I think it's time for lunch.) Not sure I'm parsing ATME right—it's clued [My way]. "Throw it my way"/"Throw it at me"? I think that must be it. Iffy entry, but I like TWEEN crossing it.