March 14, 2006

Jecrean (tailless cat's Hump Day)

The upside of Ben Tausig's Ink Well puzzle being dropped by the Village Voice's new publisher is that the Across Lite file Ben sends out now has the Chicago Reader version of the puzzle, complete with a few local-interest clues. (That clue about I-94 is no joke—steer clear of the Dan Ryan Expressway for the next two years if you're driving through Chicago.) This week's puzzle, "Between Jobs," is of the standard freshness and qualiity. An inventive theme, lots of long entries, plenty of pop culture, and the occasional eyebrow-raising clue ("Horny heavyweight" isn't TYSON, but rather RHINO).

I really enjoyed Jeffrey Harris's Sun puzzle, "Leaves in Fear," although it has unveiled a lapse in my mom's botanical teachings. What my mom always called a tulip tree turns out to also be known as the YELLOW POPLAR. Geography or botany themes, I'm always a sucker for those. Nice construction, with 9-letter entries anchoring the theme entries; METER MAID and POOL TABLE. "Number of spirits?" is a good clue for PROOF. (Has anyone else noticed that the Sun puzzles have more clues involving kiddie lit than the other puzzles? I don't know if Peter Gordon has preschoolers in the house or if he just likes to find fresh clues.)

Lee Glickstein and Nancy Salomon's NYT was more challenging than recent Wednesdays' puzzles have been. You know what accounted for much of the extra time? It was plugging in BEST OF SHOW instead of BETS—EMT is, after all, about six times more common a crossword entry than EMS, and ITSYBITSY and ITSY are roughly twice as common as ITTYBITTY/ITTY. Between those and not being up on the moons of Uranus, it was a slow start. At least WETS OF THE MOON was easy enough—even though I'd never heard the phrase (Ms. Google seems to indicate that "West of the Moon" typically follows "East of the Sun"). In any event, good puzzle, good clues. Two thumbs up from this "assertive type" (LEO).

NYT 4:28
NYS 4:07
CS 3:53
Tausig 3:47
LAT 3:32
Newsday 3:15 (on paper)