August 19, 2007

Monday, 8/20

NYS 3:33
CS 3:23
LAT 2:32
NYT 2:28

All righty! I was gone most of the day, but in my absence trusty Crossword Fiend webmaster Dave Sullivan toiled away on my behalf. He upgraded the Blogger template, installed the expandable posts hack suggested by Alex Boisvert, and got HaloScan comments incorporated again after Blogger ate them. Sorry that the Blogger comments were a hassle when they were all that was available—I do like HaloScan.

Anyway, the expandable posts should work like magic. Click the "read more" link and boom, the post expands within this window. Click again to shrink it back to "summary" form and the post magically zips back to smallness. The blog archives are now organized better, with an expandable outline format and the latest stuff listed first, not last. After today, I expect that the summary will consist of the newspaper abbreviations and solving times, with all the paragraphs of text available if and when (and only if and when) you want to see 'em.

It's been a while since Lynn Lempel had a Monday New York Times puzzle, and I'm always glad to see her byline early in the week. She's got five famous trios, with the two vertical ones crossing the three BILLY GOATS GRUFF. (I used to read to Ben from this board book edition of the story. It was the first book he could fake-read by reciting from memory.) The other trios are the three LITTLE PIGS, FRENCH HENS, BLIND MICE, and MEN IN A TUB. Not that many 3-letter words, which is a plus. And some interesting longer answers: MALARKEY, which is a wonderful word; the DON'T WALK sign; South America's Lake TITICACA, beloved by '80s fans of Trivial Pursuit; and GLITCHES, another great word. What's its etymology? Let's look it up: possibly Yiddish, possibly from the space program?

Curtis Yee's New York Sun puzzle is called "Slice of Hamlet." Four theme entries that begin with words that can precede play are crossed in the grid by the Hamlet quote, THE PLAY'S / THE THING. POWER BASE gives us power play; HORSERACING, horseplay; SCREENSAVER. screenplay; and WORDSMITH, Wordplay. Like Lynn Lempel, Curtis has packed the grid with interesting longer entries (PRINGLES, the Upper EAST SIDE, SPLATS) and not many 3-letter words.


Last night I listened to the Nick Digilio show on Chicago's WGN Radio. The host had Will Shortz on for almost an hour, and they talked about Cheap Trick, crosswords, sudoku, the Jumble (tip from Will: If you're having trouble unscrambling or anagramming some letters, try writing them down in bowling pin/pyramid form, such as 1 letter above 2 letters above 3 letters. Somehow that helps your brain shuffle the letters into a new order more easily. This could come in handy when you're working on a cryptic and know what letters need to be anagrammed, but can't see the answer.), the tournament, self-designed majors. I went to college with a guy who majored in hermeneutics, which is a good deal more arcane than enigmatology. In case you wonder what sort of job that course of study might lead to, it turns out to be president of an artisanal sake importer. Anyway, Nick said my name and the title, How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, approximately a zillion times, which so fun! Nick also said he plans to have me and Tyler Hinman on the show soon—which Tyler and I learned via the radio. I'm thinking Nancy Shack should be our publicist and arrange all this, because she seems to have a knack for it.

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy puzzle features a quote (bleah). From the comic strip cat, GARFIELD (double bleah). I haven't understood the enduring success of Garfield since I was about 12 and discovered it wasn't funny. Who's still buying the Garfield merchandise and books? I did once come across an X-rated spoof of the strip online, in which the relationship between Jon and his cat took an intimate turn.

In the LA Times puzzle by Don Gagliardo, the theme entries appear to be nothing more than "phrases that start with DW, in alphabetical order." DWEEB, alas, did not make an appearance here. The puzzle's spruced up by the presence of great long fill (e.g., BLOODY MARY and SHENANIGAN). Extra bonus points for keeping the Urals out of the grid but using them to clue both EUROPEAN and ASIA.