August 30, 2006

Thursday the 31st

NYS 6:17
LAT 4:34
NYT 4:04
CS 3:49

Well, at first I thought we remained on Sock Knocking-Off Alert, Code Red, when the Thursday Sun and NYT puzzles frayed my socks, but did not remove them. This made me happy, because it held the promise of an astonishing Friday, Saturday, or Sunday NYT, in addition to the Friday Sun that will desock (or destroy) you. But then I noticed something in Patrick Merrell's NYT that knocked at least one of my socks off. (A puzzle generally has to be mighty tough to cause both of my socks to drop.)

My socks were a little frayed by Patrick Blindauer's challenging Sun puzzle. In "Redivide and Conquer," Patrick relocates the S from the beginning of the second word in a phrase to the end of the first one: i.e., "bomb squads" becomes BOMBS QUADS, clued as "Nukes campuses?" I don't know why, exactly, this puzzle took me so long to solve. Perhaps my mind was trying to persuade me that "People's Sexiest Man Alive of 1990" was someone other than TOM CRUISE? There was certainly ample obliqueness in the clues (hooray!), and plenty of clue/entry combos that were a hair outside my ken—Betty BOOP was the "Cartoon cutie in 'Dizzy Dishes'"; Frankie VALLI, I reckon, is the "Subject of Broadway's 'Jersey Boys'"; "80 minims: Abbr." is TSP; and I just plain forgot about DDE being on silver dollar coins back in the day, even though my dad's Uncle Roman used to hand them out every time we visited. The "Penultimate ex of Xavier" Cugat turns out to be ABBE Lane; the next Mrs. Cugat was Charo. Anyway, kudos to Patrick B. on an excellent puzzle.

I have to call Pat Merrell's NYT "the pee-pee puzzle." There's a huge number of P—P— theme squares: two 15's, two 10's, two 8's, and two 6's, all of them phrases or compound words in which two parts start with a P (e.g., PUFF PASTRY), plus a cohesive pair of single-P 5's (PENNY/PINCH) and another pair of single-P 3's (PEA/POD). By my count, there are 83 theme squares. And if you didn't notice this, I hope you're holding onto your socks: every single clue starts with the letter P. That's one of those constructor/editor tricks that make you wonder: Does the average solver even notice? I hope they do. Anyway, Pat being Pat, he also eked out some fill like MIKADO, SEASNAKES, and LIGHT UP ("Pay no heed to smoking rules"). If it had been hard for a Thursday, I think the other sock would've dropped; still, one sock flung clear across the room is no mean feat.