February 18, 2006


Beautiful NYT puzzle ("It's Next to Nothing") by Joe DiPietro, even if the theme is bizarre—ITS next to NIL in six different places? I don't know how he came up with that idea, much less how he executed it within the confines of a top-notch crossword. SAMOSA and PEAHEN, SLAPDASH and LESS THAN, the adjacent VANILLA and EXTRACT, classics references (ILIAD, AENEID, SPARTA, ARIADNE), BIG DEAL and IM SURE...it's all good stuff.

Hmm, what will the hapless Googlers be curious about? During the week after a Saturday or Sunday NYT, and again six weeks later (when the same puzzles appear elsewhere in syndication), people struggling with to finish the crossword turn to search engines. Lately they've been asking about the red squirrel named for the sound it makes (CHICKAREE), Scottish Satan (CLOOTIE), spawning salmon protuberance (GIB—that one was in the LA Times), and "salty hail" (AHOY MATE). Remember those ones? This puzzle may vex people with SAGITTA ("the Arrow constellation"), ARIADNE ("Theseus abandoned her"), SEASCAPE ("specialty of Russian painter Aivazovsky"), NASL (the Minnesota Kicks' league), and maybe even—since that corner was a slow one for me—SAMOSA ("small turnover") and PEAHEN ("preener's partner").


In today's CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge, Harvey Estes has written (and clued) a 45-letter sentence in the central triple stack: "Mailer of sexy catalogs...wishes to satisfy...people who like cheap thrills." For good measure, there are two more triple stacks and two vertical 8-letter entries each crossing six of the 15's.

Henry Cox and Emily Rathvon's LA Weekly puzzle, "Four in a Row," has theme entries along the lines of MINNEHAHA HAHA (a fake example), but the number of letters outside the quadruple pairs ranges from one to four in each theme entry; that must've made it harder to assemble a list of good theme entries.

Robert Wolfe's LA Times puzzle features a limerick that includes a 6-letter run of consonants (DJBMCN). Is it just me, or do we not usually see that many consonants in a row outside of a vowelless puzzle?

David Kahn's Washington Post puzzle offers a timely batch of presidential trivia for President's Day, and Patrick Jordan's Newsday puzzle adds an IONic charge to the theme entries.

Don't forget the Starbucks/NYT crossword contest! I don't know if it's just my neighborhood Starbucks store or all of them, but when my husband went to buy the Sunday paper with the contest puzzle, the staff informed him that the puzzle (by Patrick Berry) came with the Saturday paper, but gave him one to accompany the Sunday paper. What the...? Anyway, I haven't started the puzzle yet, but I've got it scanned in and printed on plain paper. If you'll excuse me, I've got a crossword to do now.

LAT 9:58
NYT 9:30
Newsday 7:40 (on paper)
LA Weekly 7:38
WaPo 7:35
CS 3:52