July 19, 2005

Verna Suit's NYS, "A Tasty Jam," is a good puzzle (and the day's slowest, at 4:02) that includes two words that have intimately related Latin roots. First, there's PLUMB [Middle English, lead, a plumb, from Old French plomb, from Latin plumbum, lead.]—pertaining to the lead weight hanging from a string used to check whether something's perfectly vertical. Then there's APLOMB [French, from Old French a plomb, perpendicularly : a, according to (from Latin ad-) + plomb, lead weight (from Latin plumbum, lead).]—meaning self-confident assurance or poise. Who can tell us why that meaning developed for APLOMB? Were people as poised as a lead weight hanging silently (and confidently!) from a string? Was it a characteristic associated with lead itself? Lead poisoning?

Jack McInturff's LAT (a quick 2:42) has something like the fifth crossword reference to Susan Lucci in the past couple weeks. Really, there's no other soap star/character who is widely recognized enough to make it into so many crosswords, is there?

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy (3:17) was good for a Tuesday. (When, oh when will Friday be here? What's that? In three days? Okay, thanks.)

Trip Payne's NYT surprised me in how easy it was. I think it's atypical for a Tuesday NYT to have at least four (legitimate) solvers clock in at less than 3 minutes on the timed applet—and that's not even counting Tyler Hinman. It turns out the theme is identical to one used a few years ago in the NYT (Thursday, July 6, 2000, Patrick Berry)—right down to the order in which the theme entries appear. Talk about your coincidences! The presumably inadvertent recycling of the theme didn't make it an easy puzzle, though—it's just an easy theme to complete once you've got the first entry, and the rest of the fill and clues were fairly straightforward. (WIth a few exceptions, such as the tricky "Othello, e.g." for GAME.)