(updated at 11:11:11 Saturday morning)
Wow, talk about your weird Halloween experiences. We were driving home from the friends' neighborhood where we went trick-or-treating (and adult trick-or-treaters could tap the keg at one house), and found ourselves in ridiculously heavy traffic—the sort of traffic that turns a 10-minute trip into a half-hour one. The kid needed some protein after an evening of candy snacking, so we were heading towards the local McDonald's—which is the one in the heart of Wrigleyville. Holy cow, are there a lot of Halloween revelers bar-hopping tonight. I had no idea it was such mayhem. So anyway, the McDonald's drive-through was taking forever. Just when the line finally scooched forwards, a young red-haired man in a Ronald McDonald costume (of sorts) roller-skated up to our car and handed over a hamburger. Turns out no, he doesn't work there; he just wanted to complete his costume by ordering 50 burgers to go. You know what happens when one customer orders 50 burgers? All the other customers kinda have to wait. But with a free burger to eat while waiting...not so terrible any more.
But you didn't come here to hear about bizarre Halloween disbursements of hamburgers. Crosswords! This week's Thursday NYT was just a regular themed puzzle of medium difficulty, and the Halloween puzzle was just a regular Friday themeless. The gimmick was stored up for the Saturday New York Times puzzle by Donald Willing. In the middle of the puzzle, we have TWO-WAY STREETS spelled backwards, as STEERTSYAWOWT: [Many thoroughfares...or what this puzzle's Across answers consist of?] Every other row of Acrosses runs from right to left, as if the traffic is going back and forth from one side of the puzzle to the other as it travels down through the grid. It took me a long time to notice that every answer in a given Across row ran backwards, and that the backwards action occupied every other row. Two kinds of fun! I loved the twist on convention here.
There are two more theme entries, both running in the standard direction: [Detours] are ALTERNATE ROUTES and a [Possible result of an appeal] is a REVERSE DECISION. My favorite backwards business:
And here's the forward stuff I liked best:
A few years ago someone told me that Stan Newman's "S.N." byline was reserved for the very toughest Newsday "Saturday Stumper" crosswords, so there was some trepidation as I printed out the puzzle. As it happened, though, the puzzle was on the easy to medium side of the Stumper spectrum. (PDF solution here.) There were some knotty crossings:
I learned that SRI is a [Title that means "wealth"]. I already knew that PEZ was a [Name derived from the German for "peppermint"]—Pfefferminz. Two other trivia bits: ["Beauty superhuman" in a 17th-century novel] is DULCINEA; ZAPATA was the [Oil company founded by George H.W. Bush]. I love the word NONESUCH, or [Paragon].
Robert Wolfe's LA Times crossword feels like it has a theme, since all three 15-letter answers are spoken phrases.
But the phrases are unrelated, so they're just the zest in this themeless. Clues of note, cool answers, etc.:
The theme in Paula Gamache's CrosSynergy crossword, "RV Park," is phrases with R.V. initials:
October 31, 2008