August 24, 2006

Friday, smooth as butter

NYS 5:56
LAT 5:05
NYT 4:51
8/11 CHE 4:02
CS 4:00

WSJ 10:09
Reagle [untimed]

Huzzah! David Levinson Wilk's themeless NYT puzzle is as smooth as silk, butter, or [insert term of your choosing here]. With a horizontal triple stack of 15's crossed by six more 15's, this baby really flows.

Trip Payne's Sun puzzle has a 15x16 grid and one of those themes that tries to obscure itself but eventually peeks out and yields a satisfying "aha" moment.

Back to the NYT puzzle by Levinson Wilk: With this many 15-letter entries spanning the grid, it behooved me to see if I could ascertain any of the long answers. The sixth one was a gimme for me, the Jacqueline Susann novel ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH. Working from the clues that intersect with it, I got enough letters to nudge me toward SATELLITE DISHES right next to it, and the two together suggested ...OPERATORS as a partial answer to "They help make some calls." That one turned out to be A.T. AND T. OPERATORS, an odd-looking sequence of letters in a crossword. And so it unraveled in a most pleasing fashion. Favorite clues: "Chow line?" for LEASH, "One that performs best when tired?" for CAR (the clue seems familiar, but I could just be having déjà vu), "Point of contention" for ARENA, "Bun component" for TRESS, and "Calm's opposite" for ANGST.

Trip's puzzle left me with a disconnect between the theme clues and answers until after I'd finished solving and studied them for a bit. Eventually it dawned on me: Swap out the state name for its two-letter postal abbreviation, and get a much shorter entry that's clued straightforwardly. There's even a shooing theme-within-a-theme, with SC RAM and VA MOOSE both clued "Away with you!" Trip, the man who joneses for the letter Q, also squeezed A QUARTER TO into the puzzle.


Patrick Berry's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "X Marks the Spot," is brilliantly constructed. If you don't ordinarily solve the Friday WSJ puzzle, you'll want to do this one. Really. I'm not even going to spoil it here, because I want you to do this puzzle. Go. Now.

Fun offering from Merl Reagle in this weekend's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Sorry, Wrong Letter!" • Cute theme and some great long fill entries in Jeffrey Harris's 8/11 Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "Put-on Airs." • Not sure if the central theme entry in Doug Peterson's LA Times puzzle really goes with both halves of the theme. Any comics fans who've done this puzzle care to weigh in? • In Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Rasing Kane" (shouldn't that be "Razing Kane" to avoid an archaic or British word?), I was thrown off a bit by RIGHTING PENN. I don't care if Google lends support to the base phrase—I call it a pen, not a writing pen.