January 05, 2006


The marquee puzzle of the day is Byron Walden's Weekend Warrior in the Sun. I wouldn't say this is Byron's toughest puzzle ever (some may dispute that), but it could be his best. I counted 14 entries that aren't listed in the Cruciverb database—and that's a lot of shiny newness to stuff into one puzzle. There are some trademark colloquialisms (most notably HMM I WONDER and HUMOR ME) and a trademark tech term (DRILL DOWN), two intersecting authors with Z's in their names, and an R&B song from 1994 (HEY MR DJ) that I'd never heard of. The Jack Nicholson movie was hard to come by, even with the first letter—his last three Oscar nominations were all for movies starting with an A! (Different letter counts, though.)

But as fantastic as the fill is, it's the clues that make me a loyal Walden customer. The best "aha" clues are "Mystery offer?" for RAT POISON and "Dick Cheney supporter?" for STENT. When a math professor writes, "Fixed circle above a moving center?" it's natural to think of geometry, but it's basketball: RIM. "Odio's opposite" probably befuddled everyone who doesn't speak Italian, but when AMORE fills in, the etymology reveals itself. "Nose expert" hints at otolaryngology, not wine (OENOPHILE). DOGWALKER is, naturally enough, "One who follows many leads?" Both of these clues tempt the solver to assume the wrong meaning of a word like "nose" or "lead"—par for the course in Waldenesque cluing. P.S. What was your solving time?

David Levinson Wilk's NYT features a pair of triple-stacked 15's that are about as zippy as triple stacks get: GONZO JOURNALISM looks great across the top of the grid, doesn't it? There are a few new entries, but, um, not as many as in the aforementioned puzzle; JERRY RICE, PAW PRINTS, and FOSTER DAD make their debuts, along with one of the 15's (HOT ENOUGH FOR YOU). As with Byron's puzzle, there are also a number of entries (I like WHO IS IT and WASH ME) that have been used only once or twice before. Best clue: "Sticking point?" for CARET.


Check out the order of the theme entries in Rich Norris's CrosSynergy puzzle. My golf experience is limited, but I'm guessing that TEE, ROUGH, BUNKER, GREEN, HOLE would be a reasonable sequence of locations for a somewhat troubled golf ball.

Today would have been my late grandmother's 93rd birthday. When I was a kid, she's the one I watched tackle the NYT and other crosswords. The only time there was no folded newspaper page with a crossword atop her kitchen table is when the space was needed at mealtimes; dishes cleared, the crossword was returned to its rightful place. Grandma found the puzzles increasingly difficult as more pop culture and wordplay were incorporated, which raises the question: What will crosswords be like 40 years from now? Will we still like them, or will we grumble that they were better back in our heyday?

NYS 8:38
NYT 6:50
LAT 4:23
CS 3:22

Reagle 9:35
WSJ 8:47