October 13, 2005

Friday, at last

Another impressive creation from Michael Shteyman in the NYT, with three vertical 15s intersecting the three horizontal 15s. When you're familiar with a constructor's life story, of course, it's tempting to identify entries with an autobiographical slant, like FOREIGN LANGUAGE, ESL, WHERE ARE YOU FROM, and TROIKA. This puzzle had lots of good clues, such as "Like some devils?" for HANDSOME, "Historic trials" for A TESTS, and "One affected by a strike" for TENPIN.

Maybe I'll start paying attention to the number of clues I never had to look at in the course of finishing a puzzle. In this one, there were just two (RAY and TIE). Early-week puzzles can be completed with about half of the clues, generally, whereas wicked Saturday puzzles require repeated visits to nearly every clue.

Kevin Wald's Sun took me a lot longer than the NYT did, I think because the theme was rather elusive. Most insert-a-letter themes don't use a different unrelated letter in each theme entry, after all. Then there were the unfamilar entries (e.g., ANDREAS) and ornery clues (to name just a few: "Old English character" for ASH, "Confronts" for BREASTS, "Shepherd's sound" for ARF). Man, was I grateful for gimmes like MALICK, LE CAR, ETTA, and SOZE.


Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy theme is one of those with a series of related words strung together—in this case, each theme 15 lists three kinds of cars (e.g., RACE, PATROL). Personally, rather like the challenge inherent in this sort of theme, because there's no cue telling you where the words start and end. I had TOY for a while, until I realized that it was followed by NARMORED and it had to be TOWN instead. How do you feel about this variety of theme?

I really liked Patrick Berry's WSJ puzzle, so much so that I stopped in the midst of solving to jot down clues and entries I liked. To wit, LOVERBOY (who doesn't love '80s pop references?), TOO TOO, PRAT (British slang for the butt, or an idiot; origin unknown; this one was new to me), and PHREAK were fill that stood out for me. I liked the theme entries, too, particularly A DRY WHITE SEASONING. The best clues were "Showing less wear?" for NUDER, "Piles on the floor" for RUGS (kept me guessing until the end), and "A certain point underground?" for STALAGMITE.

Merl Reagle's "Incognito" puzzle had the twist of separating the hidden celebs' first and last names into adjacent entries, which made it harder to figure out what was going on.

NYS 8:34
LAT 5:05
NYT 5:01
CS 3:51

WSJ 10:35
Reagle 9:52