(post updated at noon Saturday; Thursday post also updated late with Patrick Blindauer's CrosSynergy puzzle)
A Saturday New York Times puzzle, constructed by Natan Last, with 70 words and 30 black squares—this puppy breaks no records at all. But a handful of the entries were straight-up fun to uncover, and MR. MIYAGI brought a smile to my face. (His clue: [Film character who says "I promise teach karate. That my part. You promise learn"].) A sweet little hit of '80s pop culture will generally give me the warm fuzzies towards a crossword. There were other terrific entries, and the clues amused me too. My favorite ingredients:
I needed a lot of crossings to figure out the [Oil-based paste mentioned in the lyrics to "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds"]. I knew it was something-INE, but not that it was PLASTICINE. The lyric is given as "Plasticine porters with looking glass ties." What? Ties? Not eyes? Sighs. Another answer that sort of rhymes with PLASTICINE is JOLENE, a [#1 country hit for Dolly Parton]—for this one, I needed all the crossings. The [Existential musing] "WHY AM I HERE?" asks the self-referential question. Why is that phrase there? Is this an "in-the-language" phrase that's perfect crossword fodder, or a contrived phrase? I rather think it's the former.
In sum: Fun puzzle with a lively pop-culture vibe. I think Will Shortz got his days mixed up, though, because yesterday's Kevin Der record-breaker felt a good bit tougher than this one.
Brad Wilber's themeless LA Times crossword has many cool entries:
Is it just me, or was this one a good bit easier than most of Wilber's themeless puzzles?
Dan Stark's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" is again a bit tougher than the day's other themelesses. Is it just me, or has Stan Newman stepped up the difficulty level in the Stumper? It's been a while since I had cause to blog about the disconnect between the "Stumper" name and an easy puzzle. In this one, the last quadrant I filled in was the upper left. It all looks so reasonable now, sure, but mid-solve, these answers were hiding from me:
Did you know the [World's most common place name] is SAN JOSE? I recall a bar trivia question along these lines, and my team figured it had to be something reflecting the old British Empire, like Victoria. I don't remember if San José was given as the correct answer—they had some crazy wrongnesses sometimes.
Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle is called "Where's the Fire?" because the four theme entries end with words that can follow the word fire:
In the fill, [Goes from tavern to tavern] is BARHOPS. Did you ever notice that barhop and carhop are just one letter off?
August 22, 2008