December 21, 2007

Saturday, 12/22

NYT 5:32
LAT 5:20
Newsday 4:38
CS 3:12

Oh, I am sleepy. There was wine with a friend while the boys played together and it made me sleepy. The walk home in the drizzly briskness (surprisingly warm for solstice time) gave me a second wind to tackle the New York Times crossword by Harvey Estes, but now the drowsiness has returned like MacArthur. This is a very-low-word-count puzzle, with just 56 answers in a windmill- or clover-shaped grid. The upshot of a low word count is that it's much harder for the constructor to fill the grid, so you do end up with scads of E's and S's (and no uncommon letters) and the occasional RELOANED (but there are just four 4-letter answers and no 3-letter ones). I don't care for loan as a verb, but the American Heritage usage folks say "The verb loan is well established in American usage and cannot be considered incorrect." The #1 "WTF?" answer has got to be ELEGIT, or [Creditor's writ], which I am tempted to say I've never seen before. The database, however, tells me that it was in the 6/15/06 Thursday NYT puzzle, and I blogged about the word. Huh. A dictionary definition: "A writ of execution against a debtor by which the debtor's property or goods are delivered to the plaintiff until the debtor can settle the debt."

Favorite clues: [Lobby, say] for the verb PRESSURE; [Where one can retire young?] for CRIB; [Singles player] for PHONO (playing 45 r.p.m. records, not tennis); [Eyeballs] for ASSESSES; [Encrypted?] for INTERRED; and [Long-armed redheads] for ORANGS—especially that last one. Tougher clues with more out-there answers: [Tom, Dick or Harry] for PRENAME (defined by the American Heritage dictionary as "forename," which is defined as a first name); [Upper parts of piano duets] for PRIMOS; [Roadsters] for RUNABOUTS; and [___ shorthair (cat breed)] for ORIENTAL—I had to piece all of those together from the crossings. Along with ED MEESE, [Dick Thornburgh's predecessor in the cabinet]—I'll bet most Reagan-era(ish) officials crossword action involves Meese. No shortage of lengthened solving times on the applet—what hitches did you have? Did ELEGIT balk at being filled in? Oout-of-the-way beographical places in the puzzle; SALINA, Kansas; ALAMOSA, Colorado; LA MESA, California; and the SIENESE from Siena in Tuscany.


Barry Silk's LA Times crossword took me down two wrong paths for [Nike offering]—first I had ATHLETIC SHOE, then I had RUNNING SHOE, and eventually I caved to the retro JOGGING SHOE (running shoes outpolls jogging shoes by a factor of 100 on Google). Cool entries: CIA HEADQUARTERS, WINSTON-SALEM, EXCAVATING and UNORTHODOX with their X's. This puzzle's probably a pangram, but I haven't time to check. Must wrap gifts! Buy gifts! Tidy house!

Dan Stark's Newsday themeless was easier than the NYT and LAT puzzles, for me. It's got 72 words, and yet plenty of common-letter entries of the sort seen in Harvey's 56-word NYT—REASSERT, TENSER, SENSES, NEATER, STEERAGE. And 26 3- or 4-letter words, too. I like the combo of SCREE and DEBRIS (they have semi-similar meanings, and they rhyme!), [Cultured fare] for YOGURT, KITTY-CAT, DEHUMIDIFY, and the understated [Close one] for SOULMATE.

Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle, "R&B Progression," cycles through the vowels in RABBIT'S FOOT, REBEL YELL, RIBCAGE, ROBIN HOOD, and RUBBER-STAMP. What, no Billy Idol clue for REBEL YELL?