November 04, 2006

Sunday, 11/5

NYT 11:50
WaPo 8:53
BG 7:45
LAT 5:48
10/20 CHE 4:25
CS 3:58

(post updated 3:00 p.m. Sunday)

Don't be surprised if Derrick Niederman's Sunday Times puzzle, "Missing Links," takes you longer than usual—you've got 88 extra squares to contend with since it's a 23x23 grid rather than 21x21. As in this weekend's Merl Reagle creation, Niederman's theme is a bit of a word game. Speaking of word games, NYT crossword subscribers (and anyone who buys the Sunday Times) can also do this weekend's Second Sunday puzzle, Will Shortz's "The Outsiders." So far I've got 18 of the 24 answers; must persevere!

Back to the NYT crossword: In the clues for the theme entries, a blank space between two parts of a phrase needs to be filled in by creating a series of two-word phrases (or compound words) that link together. For example, 25-Across is [White ___ House] and the answer is CHRISTMAS TREE because "White Christmas" ties to Christmas tree, which ties to treehouse. The longest chain is in the 23-letter entry at 76-Across, with six other components linking Easter to bunny. I liked this theme, I did—especially how the e___Bay and i___Pod chains began with e.g. and IQ. Wouldn't you love to see Niederman's list of rejected theme entries? They'd make for a fun game. This puzzle's also got some tricky fill, such as WIGWAGGED (not ZIGZAGGED, which I tried first) and the legal term ABATOR. (By the way, when something's hyperlinked, it's typically a definition or illustration of a word, or occasionally an illuminating link like this from World Wide Words. So if you're wondering about a word and there's a link for it, click away.) Then there are traps like 114-Down's [Fleet of ships], 6 letters starting with AR. ARMADA? Nope: ARGOSY. Did you know [Abdominal pouches] are called MARSUPIA (plural of marsupium)? I know the animals with pouches are called marsupials, but never knew the word related to the pouches that way. (P.S. There were no other "fill-in-the-blank" clues besides the theme ones. Nice touch!)

Back to Will's "Outsiders" puzzle!


Henry Hook's Boston Globe puzzle from three weeks ago is called "Gaining a Profit" because the theme entries gain a NET. Good theme, good fill, good clues—all-around enjoyable crossword.

I forgot to do the Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle on Friday. The October 20th crossword is Jeffrey Harris's "Student ID's," and it's got one of those classic CHE quasi-academic themes that I always enjoy. The fill includes ANANSI, [Trickster god of African lore]—every culture ought to have its own trickster character, as Norse mythology has Loki the trickster. This crossword taught me that the ISUZU car company's named after a river, and both P*NZ* options are included here—Ezio Pinza in a clue, and PONZI schemes in the grid.

Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge has three triple stacks of 15's crossed by a vertical 15: Andy Gibb's EVERLASTING LOVE. When I was about 12 years old, I was absolutely over the moon about Andy Gibb. Oh, how I loved that poster on my bedroom wall...and the photos on his album covers...and any pictorials in Tiger Beat. Shaun Cassidy and Leif Garrett had nothing on Andy—nothing.

Frances Burton riffs on quasi-numerical prefixes in her Washington Post puzzle, "You Do the Math." For example, [Two termites = ?] is SIX SMIDGENS, ter- being a prefix meaning three (3 x 2 = 6) and mites meaning smidgens or iotas. I can't say I ever looked at the clue words in quite that way before, but I like what she's done here. "Decadent" as ten dents? Diodes as a couple poems? I've never seen a theme like this before. It's nifty!

Last and easiest but not least, I whizzed through Patrick Jordan's LA Times puzzle because its theme is "Windy City Cinema." I hadn't known that the Cary Grant movie at 84-Across was set in Chicago, but the other seven? Bing-bang-boom, they fell like dominoes. I'm sure it's inordinately helpful to be from Chicago when solving a crossword with this theme. Thanks for a fun puzzle, Patrick.