June 01, 2006

Ah, Friday

Well, I spent a couple hours watching the final rounds of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee before turning my attention to the Friday crosswords. My favorite bee word tonight: tmesis, meaning "separation of the parts of a compound word by one or more intervening words." The Wikipedia article on the word lists numerous popular examples, such as "a whole nother" and "abso-fuckin'-lutely." I don't know that tmesis lends itself to a crossword theme, but it's a darn handy device to wield, isn't it?

Jim Page's NYT puzzle tricked me from the get-go with the clue for 1-Down, "range of some singers"—I plugged in ALTO and then BASS, but of course, it's ALPS. Over on the other side of the grid, I had something starting with PROW for "One who works for pin money?"—it took a while for the W to break off in my head (the answer was PRO WRESTLER, which is a great entry). What's more, WHAT'S MORE is also great, as are SWORD SWALLOWERS, HOW SO, and LET'S GO. The clues often tended to be elusive; "having a bite" was ACERB, not anything involving eating, and "crack heads" was SPAR. I see a lot of gnarly Saturdayish solving times on the applet—what did you find most challenging about this puzzle?

The theme in Patrick Berry's Sun puzzle, "'Change of' Venue," plays on "of" phrases: "man of mystery" becomes MANNA MYSTERY, and "hair of the dog" becomes HERA THE DOG (clued as "Aphrodite's cruel nickname for Zeus's wife"). I was utterly unfamiliar with a couple entries: a term for the U.S. Marines, GYRENES, and a short-lived TV series PS I LUV U. Cute clue for EDIT: "Refuse to pass a sentence?" Although I wouldn't complain if Peter Gordon switched to running two themeless puzzles a week, I do like the challenge level the late-week themed Sun puzzles present.


There's an embarrassment of cruciverbal riches today. The most timely one is the June 2 Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle by Alan Olschwang (available via Puzzle Pointers), featuring final words from recent years' SPELLING BEE. • Colin Gale did a fantastic job with his Wall Street Journal puzzle, "The Closing Bell." The theme's fun, and the puzzle was great from start to finish. • Rich Norris's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Except After C," has a solid theme. I was partial to FIEND FOR ONESELF, but FRIED ROGERS was funny, too. (I just hope Mr. Rogers' loved ones don't see this puzzle.) • Lee Glickstein and Nancy Salomon GET THE WORD OUT in their LA Times puzzle. Or, more specifically, they get the word the out. "Opening opening?" kept me guessing for far too long (the answer's LONG O, of course). • After you finish Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle ("Gunfight") in Across Lite, be sure to read the Notepad.

NYS 8:55
NYT 6:33
LAT 5:21
6/2 CHE 5:06
CS 3:22

WSJ 8:40
Reagle (untimed)