(updated at 11:45 a.m. Friday)
Hey, word nerds! Do you like spelling? Check out the online Spelling Bee at the Virtual Thesaurus site. It uses all sorts of fancy-pants algorithms to figure out what sort of words to give you—if you're not a terrific speller, it won't give you words like caracole. If you do have mad spelling skillz, it'll challenge you a lot but not punish you for getting some difficult words wrong. The top score is 800, and I can attest that you can score 800 despite missing a sizeable percentage of your words. (I flubbed 8 of my last 50 words.) If you play long enough, it'll give you another crack at words you gave up on—and it shows you the correct spelling when you "surrender," so pay attention to those freebie answers.
I learned about the Spelling Bee from Ben Zimmer's OUPblog post.
I must tear myself away from the Spelling Bee to tend to the crosswords.
Jim Page's New York Times crossword starts with a mini-theme—["Easy does it!"] clues the two intersecting 15-letter answers, TAKE A DEEP BREATH and WHAT'S THE BIG RUSH—and builds the rest of the puzzle around it with fill that groups itself into assorted topic areas.
We've got some pop culture:
And some geography:
And some high culture:
And some nibbles:
I had a couple favorite clues here. [Be too reserved?] clues OVERBOOKS, as in a restaurant or flight. [Artemis or Atalanta] is a HUNTRESS. Forget the hunting part—have you seen Free To Be You and Me, in particular the Atalanta story? It's a feminist retelling of the Atalanta myth.
I was ready for Donna Hoke Kahwaty's Sun crossword, "For Startlers," since I'd already done two Halloween-themed puzzles with BOO words this week. This time, the BOOs are bunched into eight rebus squares, with RAY "[BOO]M [BOO]M" MANCINI holding down the fort in the middle. Lots of hard clues in this puzzle:
If this puzzle took you longer than you thought it would, you can take solace in the fact that it has 15 more squares than usual—the grid is 16 rows tall, not the standard 15. Before I hit the sack, let me single out one other marvelous answer—[BOO][BOO] BEAR, the [Ursine sidekick] of Yogi Bear.
Donna Levin's LA Times crossword contains some voting-related puns that took me a while to unravel:
Favorite clues: [Like a unicorn tamer, in myth] for CHASTE; [Malay word for "man"] for ORANG; and [Rose born William Bruce] for AXL. Tricky bits: [Ready, willing and able: Abbr.] for ADJS (short for "adjectives"); [Glacier National Park's Garden Wall, e.g.] for ARETE.
The trio of Todd McClary, Craig Kasper, and Andrew M. Greene teamed up to make this week's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Election Headlines." The meat of each plausible news headlines is clued as if it pertains to a particular person. Three examples:
Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "In a Stew," says that [What you're working on (and a literal hint to 17-, 28-, and 47-Across)] is a CROSSWORD PUZZLE or rather, a puzzle containing cross words:
The two longest Down answers sort of tie in with the theme. To [Have a cow] is to GET UPSET, but after all the crossness, the wise one FORGIVES, or [Shows compassion, perhaps]. [Comedian Murray] clues JAN, and that name didn't ring a bell for me. Turns out Jan Murray was a Borscht Belt comedian, né Murray Janofsky. [Those who stop Lightning strikes?] was no gimme for me—it's GOALIES, so the Lightning must be a hockey team. Or maybe soccer? No, hockey—the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning.
Todd McClary also has a solo outing today, with this week's Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "Literary Bent." There's one standard theme entry, POETS' CORNER at 16-Down ([Westminster Abbey burial ground, four residents of which are hidden in this grid (in appropriate places)]. Apparently there are 28 writers buried there, as well as many others commemorated with plaques. Four of those buried there are also interred in the poets' corners of this crossword grid. Edmund SPENSER runs around the NW corner, upwards in EPSOM and to the right in the unusual ENSERFS ([Binds to the land]). Abraham COWLEY rest in the NE corner, in SCOWL and LEYTE. John DRYDEN goes down in REDRY and backwards at the end of KENNEDY in the SE quadrant. And Thomas HARDY occupies the last corner, backwards in AHEAD and upwards in HYDRA.
Plenty of tough clues, like [Post-recession measure?] for a TOUPEE, STU [Holcomb who coached for Miami and Purdue] (who?), and WELCH [__ Hall (Yale freshman dormitory)].
October 30, 2008