July 19, 2007

Friday, 7/20

NYS 8:50
NYT 6:35
7/6 CHE 5:43
Jonesin' 4:25
LAT 3:58
CS 2:45

WSJ 8:42

(updated at 10:45 a.m. Friday)

Is it just me tonight, or did both Karen Tracey's Sun puzzle and Barry Silk's NYT puzzle have some knotty little spots? Karen's crossword hit me up with some quicksand (yes, I know quicksand can't be tied in knots), particularly where Ogden Nash met Roger Corman. Barry's puzzle knocked me around by means of a unit abbreviation. Both crosswords, however, were packed with cool answers and some tough clues.

In the New York Times puzzle, it was the [Work unit: Abbr.] that stopped me cold. All I could think of was the 3-letter FTE (full-time equivalent), but the answer was 4 letters long. Eventually I sussed out the answer to the crossing clue, MOLLS for [Tough companions?] ("tough" being a noun here, as in a tough guy) and got FTLB. Wha? That's a foot-pound.

Plenty of answers looked great in the grid: BELLYACHE; a cell-phone DEAD SPOT and WIKIPEDIA representing contemporary technology; the colloquial DARN IT ALL; the Scrabbly SQUAD CAR; the five-sixths consonants word, CROWDS; and the hyena's cousin, the AARDWOLF.

The clues I liked best: [Top of a stadium] for JERSEY (I needed a lot of crossings to figure that one out—jerseys as tops worn by athletes in stadiums); the aforementioned [Tough companions?]; [Relief may follow it] for BAS (as in bas-relief); [Be a night watchman?] for STARGAZE; [Black-and-white] for SQUAD CAR; and [Samoan, e.g.] for ISLANDER (fresher than a hockey clue).

I never heard of poet ALAN Seeger, the uncle of folk legend Pete Seeger. Another unfamiliar name was John OPIE, [Artist John, known as the Cornish Wonder]. I like him better than yesterday's crude OPIE and Anthony! The Isthmus of KRA is the skinny part of Thailand that extends south towards the Malay Peninsula and Malaysia, as seen on this map.

Karen's New York Sun "Weekend Warrior" knocked me out where the 15-letter 36-Across ended. THE BRONX...something. Turns out that Ogden Nash's poem, "Geographical Reflection," consists of just four words: THE BRONX? NO THONX! The ending didn't come to mind, so I figured the character in a campy Roger Corman movie had GRAY EYES, because what else would fit? Oh: X-RAY EYES!

Karen, as is her wont, included plenty of words with high-Scrabble-value letters besides that X crossing. There's a QUAHOG, the NEZ PERCE, and BRUCE BOXLEITNER. Other entries that sparkled included NANKIPOO, the MANGA comic book genre, and HIRED GUN. Her geographical bent is represented here by two Native American answers, OMAHAS and NEZ PERCE, and by RSA (Republic of South Africa). No crazy Scrabbly capital cities this time!

My favorite and/or the toughest clues: [Paint holder?] for STABLE ("Goodbye, Old Paint" is a song about a horse); [Underground rider, probably] for LONDONER (I should've gotten that one a lot more quickly, having ridden London's Underground two months ago!); [Offer?] for HIRED GUN (one who offs); [Two-star system] for BINARY stars (alas, I know more of astrology than astronomy); and [Drip conduit] for IV TUBE.

Also in the tough category: RESEDA isn't just a California town or a plant; it's also defined as a [Grayish green] color. [Strepitous] is a rare word meaning NOISY. I don't think I realized that end-run is a verb and not a noun, complete with the past tense END-RAN.


Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle for the week is called "Peace Sign Hook," a peace sign resembling the "V for victory" hand sign and a hook resembling the letter J: thus, the theme entries have V.J. initials and are tied together by VJ DAY in the middle (though that day's a few weeks off). GETS LUCKY is clued as [Finds a friend for the evening]; hmm, maybe "friend" should be in quotes.

Todd McClary's July 6 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword is entitled "Iggy Noramus, College Bowl Alternate!" The theme clues are potential College Bowl questions (but too easy for real College Bowl) and the answers are Iggy's stall-for-time remarks that turn out to be correct. For example, [What does a rating of 10 on the Mohs scale represent?] Iggy replies, THAT'S REALLY HARD!—and indeed, 10 on the Mohs scale is the rating for the hardest mineral. I'm surprised I didn't struggle longer with this crossword, because there were a zillion clues I just stared at. Definitely a good set of clues—plenty of things to learn and to think about.

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynregy puzzle, "Minor League," has an easy theme (three 15-letter phrases) amid almost Monday-level clues. If Friday puzzles have you feeling burned out, this one may rejuvenate you. Not sure how I feel about the entry LION'S TAIL—is that a phrase in and of itself, or is it more along the lines of "blue car," descriptive but not necessarily "in the language" as a concept?

The LA Times crossword is by Robert A. Doll. (This could be another constructor debut.) Cute theme—puns involving desserts (yum!). The theme entries are lashed together by six longish fill entries crossing them vertically, making it a somewhat ambitious grid.

The Wall Street Journal crossword, "Neat Solutions," is by Randolph Ross. Each of the 10 theme entries begins with a word that has to do with neatening—e.g., MOP, CLEAN, LAUNDER. My favorite bits of fill are opposite one another: THE ONION and ZUCCHINI. Two vegetables, one satirical.