August 20, 2005

Old ladies and ashcakes

The 7/22 Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle by Alan Olschwang felt a lot harder than my solving time reflects. That's what's so fun about the CHE puzzles—if you can finish them, you sure do feel edjimicated. And it's always nice to see a reminder that Bill Clinton was a Rhodes scholar.

The Newsday Saturday Stumper has returned to form this week after a shockingly easy puzzle last Saturday. Merle Baker makes a nice themeless, he does. I also appreciated Bonnie Gentry's well-constructed LAT themeless today, though it fell a lot faster than the Stumper. Bonnie has a knack for new fill. I liked OLDLADIES, but who's responsible for that clue, "girlfriends, informally"? It seems a tad retro.

Now we turn to Patrick Berry's NYT, which I plodded through in a surprisingly brisk fashion. None of the 15s were really gimmes for me, but they were easy enough to figure out after a few letters were filled in. Then the rest of the puzzle followed naturally, as a mere seven vertical entries didn't cross either triple stack. There aren't that many 4- to 6-letter entries that you can't figure out when you've already got three letters filled in.

I'd never heard of ASHCAKES, so I did a little research. These are the cornmeal-based pancakes also known as johnnycakes, cornpone, and hoe cakes, rumored to have been introduced to the Pilgrims by the Native Americans. The essentials are cornmeal, water, and salt, plus a frying pan; butter, oil, eggs, and baking powder might be tossed in as well. Mmm, I'm ready for another round of breakfast now.

Newsday 8:19
NYT 4:28
LAT 4:22
CHE 3:52
CS 3:02