Karen Tracey's 68-word New York Times crossword hits that sweet spot—it's got those trademark entries that give me both a sense of recognition ("Ah, yes, there are the Scrabbly long entries," "Here's the kooky geographic name") and sheer enjoyment. If you're keeping score, I think it's something like 60 of Karen's puzzles that I liked, one that vexed me terribly, and a small handful I wasn't enthusiastic about.
Isn't it a pretty grid? I want to climb inside it with a Slinky and let the Slinky stairstep down the black-square diagonals. The marquee answers are the 12s:
My favorite clues and answers included the following:
I don't know why [Track cover-up?] is a question-marked clue. It's a SWEATSHIRT. Is the clue supposed to evoke the steroids scandal in track and field? Miscellaneous other answers I pieced together with the crossings:
Doug Peterson's themeless 68-word LA Times crossword has some starchy 15-letter entries crossing in the center (BUTTERNUT SQUASH, BREADFRUIT TREES), surrounded by corners with stacked 8s. Clues that slowed me down until the crossings pointed the way:
None of those are particularly obscure, at least by crossword standards, so the puzzle put up some challenge without being vexing.
Daniel Stark's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" is mostly fair and fairly tough. With 10 plurals ending in S, four -ED past tenses, two -INGs, an -EST, and an -ER, plus lots of un-Scrabbly words like ENTREAT and ERASURE, the fill hasn't got much zing. I prefer the combo of zippy fill and twisty clues, not just one or the other. My favorite clues were [Exam mark] for ERASURE, [Former Surgeon General] Joycelyn ELDERS, and [They know the score] for OBOISTS (I wanted MAESTRI). I didn't care for FELT PEN/[Highlighter]; I prefer the term felt-tip pen and even though it's technically accurate, I've never heard someone call a highlighter a felt pen. Marker, maybe, but not pen. [Lamb, for one] is RED MEAT? Baa.
Randy Ross's CrosSynergy crossword, "Spoken Here," concocts some languages in a fun theme. WHEAT GERMAN (which sounds like an adjectival form of wheat germ) might be a [Language spoken by some European grain farmers?]. [Language spoken superbly by Hamlet?] is GREAT DANISH (Great Dane dog). [Language spoken by prospectors in the Urals?] is GOLD RUSSIAN (Gold Rush). And NORTH POLISH could be the [Language spoken by Santa?] (North Pole).
June 06, 2008