July 16, 2005

Catching up on the weekend puzzles

I'm finally almost caught up with the weekend's crosswords, after spending the afternoon offline at the ER (when your kid is the healthiest and most intact one there, you tend to wait a lo-o-o-ong time). Henry Hook's LA Weekly puzzle had an embedded word puzzle in the theme, and I always like Henry's work. (Hell, I can do his puzzles twice if I'm not careful.) I'm sure you all can come up with plenty of other possibilities for Henry's "X Marks the Spot" theme. Let's see... "NOVEMBER X" could be AFTERTHEFALL. "OBJ X ECTS" could be INTHEMIDDLEOFTHINGS. But there's a reason those examples didn't make it into the grid; they're not good.

My next favorite Sunday puzzle is tomorrow's NYT by David Kahn, who has become another constructor whose byline I always welcome. David's commemoration of Disneyland's 50th birthday edges the one by Randolph Ross in the WaPo magazine, since David stacked some theme entries together, did one of those circled-letters thingies, and packed sterner challenges into the grid. Is it just me, or has Will Shortz been making us all work harder on recent Sunday puzzles? They haven't felt like oversized Wednesday puzzles for a few weeks.

The gifted Merl Reagle's "Sounds from the Past (Tense)" is classic Merl. You say "tryptophan," Merl hears TRIPPED A FAN lurking beneath the surface. "I decline," Merl hears EYED A KLEIN. How does he get through the day without getting so distracted by everything he hears and can wrangle a fun crossword out of? He's gotta be carrying a notebook or a voice recorder. Whatever his method is, he'd better keep at it, because I look forward to doing Merl's puzzles every weekend. (Vielen Dank and merci beaucoup to Lloyd Mazer for releasing them to us in Across Lite.)

Looking back to this morning, I zipped through Harvey Estes' Saturday CrosSynergy puzzle, "Star-crossed." In addition to the interlocking 15-letter celebs, a bunch of shorter star names were strewn throughout the grid. (And by star names, I mean people, not obscure celestial objects.) I'm never one to object to a preponderance of you-know-them-or-you-don't names in a crossword.

Bob Peoples' Saturday LAT was very well-done. Plenty of relative obscurities that were easy enough to get through the crossings. Lots of fresh phrases like CUBFANS, BEERNUTS, AVONLADY, HUMBLEPIE, BLUEFLU, and DONTMOVE. My only wish is that the clues had been tougher so I could have spent twice as long working this puzzle!

Hmm, I see I haven't mentioned Michael Shteyman's Saturday NYT here yet. It kicked my ass, but I lived to tell the tale. I really liked OKOK and INQUEUE, and I'd never heard of a GINK before. The American Heritage Dictionary (online) tells me that GINK is slang for "A man, especially one regarded as foolish or contemptible." You better believe I'm going to start working that one into daily conversation from now on. Join me! We'll make it popular! C'mon, don't be a gink.

Now, as for that contest down there in the previous post—don't forget to plug your favorites! As we say in Chicago, vote early and vote often. Okay, really, just pick your one favorite entry. Hopefully a quasi-consensus will emerge and the victor will win the fabulous prize of bragging rights.