March 07, 2008

Saturday, 3/8

NYT 10:38
Puns and Anagrams 6:20
LAT 4:27
Newsday 4:21
CS 2:40

Yow! I think last Saturday's Brad Wilber puzzle in the LA Times was a good bit easier than this weekend's Brad Wilber crossword in the New York Times. Scratch that—the earlier puzzle was at least two or three good bits easier. I say that now, but it's just a matter of time before certain applet dominators show up and demonstrate that this puzzle is not extra-hard at all. (Preemptive sigh.) Three quarters of this puzzle was standard Saturday fare, but that northwest corner, augh! Eventually I fought through it with nary a Google, but Broadway really is not my area. Especially not 1957 Broadway, such as [Song sung by Mehitabel in Broadway's "Shinbone Alley"], or "TOUJOURS GAI." (That G was the last letter I filled in.) The first U at least pointed the way toward the more contemporary Broadway answer, [2006 Tony-nominated "Sweeney Todd" actress] Patti LUPONE. The [Big flap on the road?] was a SPLASHGUARD, but I had trouble letting go of the too-short term MUDFLAP. [Traitorous] is UNPATRIOTIC. STUART, [Prolific suspense novelist Woods], was only vaguely familiar. And PONGEE, the [Soft, thin silk cloth]? Even [Sports biggies] felt harder than it needed to be; with ***PENS, I was thinking only of single words, rather than U.S. OPENS.

Favorite clues and answers, and other toughies: Rosey GRIER, [Member of the 1960s Rams' Fearsome Foursome] and singer of "It's All Right to Cry"; [They're often fried] for drunken SOTS; [Nickelodeon nut] for REN, from the '90s; [Ready to be driven] for both TEED UP and IN GEAR; RAIL BARONS [Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jay Gould]; [Bathtub rings, e.g.] for RESIDUES; LIMNING ([Sketching]); [People in a rush] for ATTACKERS; HYMENOPTERA, straightforward [Order of ants]; [It rises in the Cantabrian Mountains] for the trusty old EBRO (who knew there were Cantabrian Mountains in the north of Spain?); [Lead-in to a sheepish excuse] for SEE; [Mardi Gras, in the U.K.] for PANCAKE DAY (pancakes! a holiday for pancakes! who needs Shrove Tuesday when you can call it Pancake Day?); LIE-ABEDS (I prefer slugabeds), or [Early-birds' opposites]; and [Kitchen gripper] for SARAN.


The LA Times crossword from Barry Silk tosses an obscure currency at us, but with straightforward crossings (providing you've done crosswords long enough to know SNEE, the [Old-fashioned knife]. The U-less Q word QINTAR is [1/100 of an Albanian lek]. Most of the clues were fairly straightforward and the answers were mostly not too hard. I like the [Kindergarten threat] I'LL TELL (though "I'm telling!" sounds more apt), and my brain is parsin I REPEAT as ire-peat, when you're mad because your sports team's rival has repeated as the league champions. Best entry: PTERODACTYL, [Flier of long ago].

Dan Stark's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" is considerably easier than last weekend's Stumper by Stan. Fill highlights: NO SWEAT (["Easy!"]); WHIFFED ([Failed to hit], as a baseball); and CARIBOU ([Lichen eater]—yum!). My favorite clue evokes '70s pop-culture nostalgia: [Daryl's singing partner] is TONI Tennille, Daryl being Daryl Dragon, "The Captain," and not Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates. "Muskrat Love"! And those inappropriate songs we sang as children, "Do That to Me One More Time" and "The Way I Want to Touch You." The [Book set in June 1904] is ULYSSES, which I've read most of.

Sarah Keller promotes common 3-letter fill to a starring role in the theme for her CrosSynergy puzzle, "Aer Supply." The four theme entries end with AER anagrams: CHARLOTTE RAE and CHANCES ARE, the BIG BAND ERA and TURN A DEAF EAR. Somewhere in a lonely corner, Stephen Rea weeps for what could have been. Again, he loses out while Charlotte Rae perseveres.

This weekend's Second Sunday puzzle from the New York Times is a Mel Taub "Puns and Anagrams" crossword. I could've gone faster, but I was trying to get the Across answers without aid of crossing answers. If you enjoy anagrams and the sort of challenge this puzzle offers but you haven't really tried cryptic crosswords yet, I urge you to get your feet wet with 101 Cryptic Crosswords: From the New Yorker. That book offers a good introduction to easier, smaller cryptics—a step up in complexity and elegance from the simpler "Puns and Anagrams" style. And when you've gotten the hang of those baby cryptics, you'll be ready to tackle the tougher ones. Do it! It's fun!