(updated at 2 p.m. Saturday)
My, oh my, what a glorious day today. I spent seven hours outside enjoying the warm September sun and the cool lake breezes. I hope it's equally lovely where you are this weekend. Speaking of this weekend, it's next weekend I'll be out of town, not this one—so guest bloggers will be in charge next weekend. Janie will be out of town next weekend too, so she'll give us her perspective on this Sunday's NYT and I will sit on my duff instead.
The Saturday New York Times crossword by Joe Krozel dishes up just 58 words, not a one of 'em only 3 letters long. The breakdown is four 4's, six 5's, 24 6's, six 7's, and 18 8's. Given the low word count, you expect to see a few roll-your-own words, here represented mostly by some "odd jobs." (That was Rex Parker's label for those -ER entries you may find in a grid like this—identical to this puzzle from a couple years ago that also had odd-jobbers in the fill.) Krozel's puzzle uses those odd-job entries as the grout between some really shiny tiles in this crossword. The shiniest entries are ones you might not expect to find in a 58-worder:
The odd-job entries include a [Drama queen] who's an EMOTER; SPEEDERS who [might be weaving]; a [Ballerina, often], or LEAPER; an APPROVER, or [One signing off]; and SEEKERS, [Participants in a kids' game]. The latter word could have been clued with reference to Harry Potter's position in the game of quidditch. Akin to the odd jobs are some slightly unnatural-sounding phrases: NEAR TO is [By]; SHIP IN is [Send from abroad]; and CART IN is [Deliver by truck]. A third "in" phrase, BASH IN, or [Break by hitting], feels smoother to me.
I tend to dislike a lot of the low-word-count crosswords, but this one had enough zippy fill to keep me content—plus, it lacked any crappy or obscure entries that might've irked me while solving. Well done, Joe.
And well done, Doug, too—Doug Peterson's 72-word Newsday "Saturday Stumper" is loaded with wonderful clues and answers. Some of the clues flouted my expectations—for example, [Pound pieces] must refer to Ezra Pound's POEMS, right? Haven't we seen that clue before? But no, it's monetary PENCE. [Triple Crown winner of '67], yuck, some horse-racing reference and a horse I don't care about, right? No, it's baseball's CARL YASTRZEMSKI and his Polish STRZ string in the middle of his name. More favorite clues:
The other answers I liked best included PLOTZ, or [Faint]; CRIES WOLF, or [Is overly alarming]; and OKEY DOKEY, or ["I'm game"]. This wasn't as hard as many Stumpers, but it's not as if it was packed with instant gimmes either. It struck a perfect balance of lightness and rigor, and I loved the overall cluing.
Doug Peterson also constructed the 70-word LA Times crossword. The grid features four 15-letter entries in stacked pairs. Up top, SWIMMING LESSONS are [Occasions to see butterflies] of a sort, and [Mahouts drive them] refers to INDIAN ELEPHANTS. Down below, MARIE ANTOINETTE ([Reign of Terror victim]) clashes beautifully with THE THREE STOOGES (["A Plumbing We Will Go" team]). I like that dissonance between French history and slapstick comedy. Did the Stooges ever use the guillotine?
Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Taking Sides," is another with the "three words that fit a clue mashed together in a 15-letter space" theme:
AGONISTS is clued as [Persons torn by inner conflicts]. I think that meaning is less prevalent than the medical/physiological one, the opposite of antagonists. The asthma drugs that are bronchodilators are typically beta2-adrenergic agonists. TAT has been clued as a tattoo lately, but this puzzle returns to the old-school crossword clue, [Work at lacemaking]. The only thing I know about lacemaking is that tatting is part of it (strictly crossword-based knowledge).
September 19, 2008