July 13, 2006


NYS 16:20
NYT 7:21
CHE (7/14 puzzle not posted yet)
LAT 5:12
CS 3:15

WSJ 8:23
Reagle 8:01

Dear Readers: We're changing things around a bit to make this blog a friendlier place for those people who have fallen behind on their puzzles and aren't as maniacal as I am about doing them promptly. From now on, all those detailed spoilers will be lurking behind the cut; to read the full post, just click the "Read more..." link. The solving times up top will tell you which puzzles are discussed after the jump. And if you're a few days behind on your crossword intake, you can scroll down to the post you want without seeing a zillion spoilers above. Also, the pesky inelegance of having only HaloScan comments accessible from the main page, but Blogger comments accessible from single posts—gone. Now it's all HaloScan, all the time.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Dave ("Evad") Sullivan, who not only makes crossword puzzles, but also is a web expert. Dave monkeyed around with the template and fixed things up for me. Thanks, Dave!

The puzzle getting the lion's share of attention this week is Pete Muller's twisty Sun crossword, "Following Directions." It's a major head-scratcher. The instructions for the gimmick take up four 15-letter entries, and it's hard to fill those lines in before you have the crossing letters, but it's hard to suss out the crossing letters before you've figured out the instructions (whenever a number/references both a/down and an across/clue, swap answers). The gimmicked clues themselves weren't so hard—but the twist meant the solver spent a lot of time assuming the wrong word length. So, did this puzzle take the rest of you two or three times longer than the typical late-week Sun puzzle? Herewith, some related links: CHAKA is dressing funny these days. I once had a boss who went to DEPAUW University. I never knew SATB was used as an abbreviation for soprano, ALTO, tenor, and bass.

This is a good time to issue a plea: You constructors who excel at making twisty, envelope-shredding puzzles, and you editors who publish them (I'm talking to you, Peter and Will), we need more! Constructors whose skewed puzzles I've savored in the past year or two include Henry Hook (Twisted Crosswords book of variety puzzles), Frank Longo (vowelless crosswords), Eric Berlin ("Going Too Far"), Craig Kasper, Lee Glickstein, Pete Muller, Patrick Berry (whose variety puzzles and variety cryptics in the GAMES publications never disappoint), and Patrick Merrell. If I've left off your favorite master of the oblique, please mention him or her in the comments.

Moving along to the NYT, he of the overtly Hibernian name, Brendan Emmett Quigley, actually has an Irish entry, the ARAN Islands. I feel like I should've remembered that the movie based on the ...Electric Sheep book was BLADE RUNNER, and surely I must once have known that TINY TIM's real name was Herbert Khaury. Devious clues are always appreciated; "Man of steel" for JP MORGAN (when SUPERMAN would also fit), "Finger-pointer" for UNCLE SAM, the could-be-related-but-isn't "Blamed" for DOGGONED. Here are some pictures of SATYRS (the butterflies); they're not too colorful. But Brendan's fill was colorful—HAVENT WE MET, WARTS AND ALL, SLAM DANCERS, JAM-PACK, GAG WRITER.


The LA Times puzzle by Joy Andrews made me cranky, as I am not up on my '60s NY Giants coaches (ALLIE Sherman), never heard the last definition for SAP (meaning "a leather-covered hand weapon; a blackjack"; clued as "blunt weapon"), and don't know infielder Manny TRILLO. At least I got UELE right off, eh? And I liked the long fill—LEGERDEMAIN and METROSEXUAL, TRASH TV and EPHEMERA.

Harvey Estes' Wall Street Journal crossword, "Cosigns," cleverly mashes up signage, producing such combos as DO NOT DISTURB WOMEN. Favorite clue: "One who may marry two people" for MINISTER (BIGAMIST also has 8 letters, of course). Then there's "Yodeler's range," which is not ALPS but FALSETTO.

I loved Merl Reagle's "If I Owned a Travel Agency" theme entries. You know what? The geography puns are too good to spoil. If you haven't done this crossword but you appreciate apt and funny puns, get to it. (For one of them, I first put in PIPESTONE, which I've actually been to, but no.)