February 17, 2006


Eric Berlin’s NYT looks great, with its grid shaped like a giant S containing 68 words and 29 black squares (did I count right?). And it’s got good fill and plenty of tricky clues that may mislead (my favorite kind!). “Certain links,” starting with W? WURSTS, not web-somethings. “Place to get rolls” is SUSHI BAR, not bakery; “lab locale” is KENNEL, not hospital; “ladies’ room” is ODA, not loo or lav, and “Canterbury can” is GAOL, also not toilet-related. I wonder how many people racked their brains for the names of giant world cities that could be a “megalopolis with about 30 million people, for short” (SOCAL). Today’s obscurities are MESNE, “intervening, legally,” and OLEG, “pianist Maisenberg” (here’s his bio in German and English), which crosses MESNE. Other factoids that struggling solvers will probably be Googling include “modern inhabitants of ancient Aram” (SYRIANS) and “commander at the Alamo” (TRAVIS).


With all the discussion yesterday about what constitutes a fair or unfair clue, I'd like to nominate a troublesome crossing in Bruce Venzke and Stella Daily's LAT puzzle. If you don't know the Brazilian writer Jorge AMADO (and I don't) or recognize the title Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon (which I didn't), then there's no way to know whether the last letter is an A or and O based on the crossing; "blood type, briefly" could be ANEG, BNEG, or ONEG. If I'd done this puzzle on paper rather than in Across Lite, I'd have plunked in an A and called it done, but I'd have been wrong.

Merle Baker's Saturday Stumper is one of the harder ones of late. Question: Why is the answer to "blackjack holdings" ALES? Is blackjack a term for a pub or something?

Newsday Saturday Stumper 7:12 (on paper)
NYT 5:37
LAT 4:35
CS 3:20

extra puzzles on paper: 27 on Friday, 16 on Saturday, all in Matt Jones’ Jonesin’ Crosswords—I recommend the book. Fifty themed puzzles of roughly Tuesday to Friday difficulty, plenty of clever themes, "edgy" content.