frank longo's new york times crossword is a cranium-crusher of exactly the type you would expect from the author of cranium-crushing crosswords. the word count is only 66, and 16 of those are 8+ letters. my favorites were:
i actually solved most of the puzzle pretty quickly (it really helps when i can get 1a), but the SE region of the puzzle did me in. everything to the east of BAFTA was blank for a while, because i didn't know:
several anatomical terms are growing in this grid: a TRUE RIB; [Alveoli, e.g.], or AIR CELLS; DIGESTIVE tracts; and the ILIUM. there were also a bunch of little foreign words: ESSA is italian for "she," SCENA is an [Elaborate solo vocal composition], and [Heads of Italy] are CAPI. GAI is french for "happy," and is an unpleasant reminder of the time TOUJOURS GAI prevented me from finishing a saturday NYT about a year ago. (i didn't keep track of constructors at the time, but why am i not surprised to go back and find that it was brad wilber?) and AMO gets a very erudite clue: [Catullus's "Odi et ___"], which means "i hate and i love."
favorite clue: [It might be kicked after being picked up] is a HABIT.
updated 3:00 pm:
stan newman's Newsday Saturday Stumper was all very gettable except for the two longest entries, one of which i felt was clued unfairly, and one of which was a fictional character i'd neeeeeever heard of. CAUSTICALLY is an adverb, but [Emulating Mencken] seems not to be. how does everybody else feel about this? i don't think it passes the substitution test. and the [Oscar-nominated role of '50] is apparently ELWOOD P. DOWD. um... yeah. google tells me this is jimmy stewart's role from harvey, but even if the clue had been [Jimmy Stewart's role from "Harvey"] i would have needed every single crossing. working out the central part of this grid took me about the last 10 minutes of the 23 i spent on this puzzle. and although 23 minutes is a pretty typical time for me on the stumper, i felt i was doing pretty well until i hit an absolute wall in the OOH/DOE area. part of the problem was SPRAINS for [Stretches, in a way] instead of SPRAWLS, which led me to guess that the mystery name might be ELIOTT P. DOWD. then i tried ELINOR P. DOWD, but CREDN looked much wronger than CREDO.
stuff i liked:
i quailed a little when i opened up today's LA Times crossword and saw brad wilber's name in the byline. but this turned out to be a very smooth and enjoyable saturday solve, with none of the pull-your-hair-out moments i associate (fairly or un-) with brad's puzzles. the highlights:
gnarly/unfamiliar bits (fewer than usual for a wilber, but there were still some):
February 27, 2009