November 02, 2006

Friday, 11/3

NYT 5:52
LAT 5:30
NYS 5:10
CS 2:59

Reagle 10:10
WSJ 9:15

(post updated 9:55 a.m. Friday)

Manny Nosowsky crafted the Friday NYT crossword with two swaths of long entries (a 15 and a pair of 12's) crossing in the center, with their ends feeding into a pinwheel of 8-letter trios—the result is an awful(ly good) lot of white space to fill in. You might say to yourself, "What on earth is an ICE CANOE? What are MAN-WEEKS?" Well, man-hours are better known, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for one, talks about man-weeks. And one version of an ice canoe is an ice proa! The proa's last appearance in an NYT crossword grid was in 1997—ah, proa, how we miss and the anoa. Five of the six long entries contain THE, facilitating the impressive interlocking. I detoured with NUTSO in lieu of NUTSY, leading me to think [Not fine] meant the judge decided to LET GO—when actually, the answer was MEALY. Right next to that was [A following], which kept me guessing until I had all but one crossing (BCDE!). I had no idea there was such a thing as Toledo SWORDS—thank goodness for gettable crossings, eh? Nice to be reminded of French illustrator Gustave DORÉ and his moody, atmospheric drawings. Oh—when I was in college, I liked to stay on in the summer and work during the alumni reunion weekend. One year, the KINGSTON TRIO performed in the chapel (the only large concert venue on campus). During the show, some friends and I snuck down to the chapel basement where the group's "dressing room" was. We pilfered some of the Kingston Trio's beer (might've been cans of Budweiser). It was cold and—much like the long entries gracing the middle of this crossword—refreshing.

In Seth A. Abel's Sun puzzle, "Club Sandwiches," three types of club—BALL, HEALTH, and COUNTRY—are sandwiched into three-word entries. MENTAL HEALTH DAY is a great entry, but what the heck's a HIDDEN BALL TRICK? Let's see...Wikipedia says it's a baseball ruse in which a fielder dupes the runner into thinking the ball is elsewhere and then tags him out. DALIS is clued with reference to this painting featuring a pomegranate. I figured pomegranate's etymology would relate to the garnet (granat in Czech—that linked page includes text that appears to be translated via Babelfish, such as "During the ninetieth of the past century the appearance of the genuine Czech Bohemian Garnet jewelry has reached in the characteristic design in which granat dominate over the metal." What?) While the granate in pomegranate pertains to grain, the garnet gets its name from the pomegranate. Since I'm rambling (hey! that was 7-Across in Manny's NYT puzzle!), I'll mention that my kid loved his first pomegranate this week. I don't know if he liked the tartness or the seed spitting more. Favorite clue in this puzzle: [Makes number one?] for WETS. It kept me guessing for an unreasonable amount of time.


Jack McInturff's themed LA Times puzzle took me almost as long as Manny's themeless. The clues tended to hide their meaning from my brain (and I've had my caffeine dose already!), and the theme dawned on me only slowly. But when I got down to the last pair of theme entries, the payoff was great—they evoked both tasty BLINTZes and Maya Angelou (I think I'd never read the poem "Still I Rise" before today, but I love it). The bottom right corner of the grid jumped out at me with old-school SERE and ERNE beside each other. Every now and then I like to attempt a little grid tweaking to see how hard it would be to eliminate fill like that. Expanding from the crossing of AND STILL I RINSE and LIVENS UP, we could have:


As with the LA Times puzzle, the theme in Patrick Berry's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "Not in So Many Words," resisted discovery for a while. Once I figured it out, several theme entries were chuckle-inducing—great payoff! The theme entries cross or parallel each other, which must have made constructing the puzzle that much more difficult. And, Berry being Berry, there's plenty of interesting fill. Especially good clues, too—one favorite for me was [Change places?] for POCKETS.

Last but not least, Merl Reagle's puzzle for this weekend is an absolute must. "A Bunch of Two-Timing Name Droppers" has a great word game within the puzzle—figuring out which celebrity's name drops the two letters listed in the clue, and also figuring out the resulting theme entry. And there are 13 of these to play with! Terrifically fun. I'm guessing that 113-Across (where the resulting theme entry is also a famous person) was the seed for this crossword. Anyway, definitely download this one.