(updated at 2:30 Saturday afternoon)
If I ran the world, I think I'd start a crossword tournament in which all of the puzzles were themeless. Or I'd persuade Will Shortz to run a side tournament during the ACPT, an all-themeless alternative event. I think it'd be a ton of fun.
Karen Tracey's 68-word themeless New York Times crossword was easier for me than the Thursday Sun and the Friday NYT and Sun. The toughest answer to puzzle out was ALBA LONGA, [Romulus and Remus's legendary birthplace]. I didn't know that FARO was the [Game dealt by Doc Holliday], but it's an old-timey-sounding card game so it was a plausible guess. I never encountered the plural for caduceus, but having worked in medical publishing the symbol was a familiar one—[Medical emblems] in the plural are CADUCEI.
Why am I almost always inordinately fond of Karen's crosswords? Because of fill like this:
Here are some other bits that might be problematic:
Sigh. I bet today's Newsday "Saturday Stumper" by Doug Peterson isn't actually the year's toughest newspaper crossword. I bet it was just me. My family fractured my mojo by embarking on a homework spat just as I settled into the crossword, and then I hit a dead stop in the southeast corner. I was totally willing to Google my way out of the morass, but the clues weren't Googleable. (Full solution here.) It is fitting that IRRITATING and AGGRAVATED are in this puzzle, because I wasn't having any fun with it. (And usually I enjoy Doug's crosswords!) So, tell me: Was this a garden-variety tough Stumper for you, or a crazy-hard puzzle?
Here are some of the clues that gave me the most trouble outside of that Corner of Darkness:
And from the Corner of Darkness:
Barry Silk's LA Times crossword has a very low word count. Not freakishly low in the 50s, but still, just 62 words. It's a beautiful grid—four identical corner sections with 44 7-letter words, eight 6's, and 10 3's. Like most low-word-count grids, though, it has a lot of prefixes and word endings tacked on—a RETASTE is a [Postseason sampling?], as in sampling the food after adding seasoning, and RETRACE is [Walk over]. -ED words include UNTAMED ([Not under control], SPEARED ([Skewered]), PLEATED ([Like many a tuxedo shirt]), ERUPTED ([Blew]), and SEDATED ([Put under]). There's an -ER (STEERER, or [One driving]) and some NEEDERS ([Underprivileged ones]. And there are also a bunch of plurals.
Favorite clues: the vague [Pitch] for the noun INCLINE; [They can't be beaten] for NEMESES; [Dovekie] for AUK, just because dovekie is a cool-looking word; [Bond report?] for DOSSIER; and [Is routed by, say] for LOSES TO, because I was thinking of routing things by sending them somewhere. [Vigil site] is a rather sad clue for BEDSIDE, though—better to go with the easy [___ manner] or [Doctor's place] than to evoke hospice scenes.
Patrick Jordan (Ponca City, Oklahoma's sole crossword luminary) constructed today's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Heroic Beginnings." This year's most prominent superheroes come into play, with each theme entry starting with whatever word fills in the ___ Man blank.
I'm pretty sure there was another superhero theme along these lines in the last few months, but I forget the details. This puzzle's a pangram, meaning it includes all 26 letters in the grid. There are single instances of X, Q, Z, and J, and two or more K's, V's, and Y's.
November 14, 2008