August 11, 2005

The doctor is in (and so's the mathematician)

Two hellacious puzzles for Friday! The NYT, by Dr. Manny Nosowsky, and the NYS by Byron Walden.

Hereafter are spoilers galore.

Let's talk about the Manny first. Two triple stacks of 15s and a slew of 7-letter entries interlocking with them mean I can't begin to fathom how to even attempt constructing such a beast. There weren't many short (or long) gimmes to offer a toehold; I started with Santa ANA winds and the old crossword staple PATEN, and they got me going. I can't believe I finished as quickly as I did given the preponderance of completely unfamiliar words in this puzzle. You better believe I'm making a mental note of them for future retrieval: TERNE metal is a plating alloy. VENTAGES are the finger holes in a flute. Mediterranean winds that occur annually are ETESIAN (adj., from the Greek etos, year). A laced waterproof boot is a SHOEPAC. And a minister-in-training may be called an ORDINEE. (Who knew? Not I.)

While Manny's puzzle stood out more for entries that were new to me, Byron's puzzle was notable for its entertainment value. Yes, it's a challenging themeless puzzle, but it's so fun too, packed with great clues (presumably courtesy of both Byron and editor Peter Gordon). There's this puzzle's Hall of Fame clue: "Honor for a really good doc" = OSCARNOD! "It makes soda pop" = FIZZ! "Bad thing to be out of" = SORTS! "Brother's cousin?" = DRAT! "Packers' org.?" = NRA! Not to mention the "eww" clue/entry: "Poor drink choice for body shots?" = FUZZYNAVEL. And the puzzle has my name in it at 5D, which isn't funny but entertained me all the same.

From a construction standpoint, the NYS puzzle gets added zip and zing from its preponderance of Zs. In the northwest corner, there are even two double Zs bunched together (FUZZY/FIZZ crossing NUZZLE/JAZZED), another double Z to the right in OZZFEST, and a single Z down below. ZZZZZZZ...which reminds me of NEEDANAP, clued as "Flag in the afternoon?" Didn't last week's NYS Themeless Thursday, also by Byron, include INEEDANAP? (Clearly, someone needs a nap.)

NYS 7:51
NYT 5:47