February 01, 2007

Friday, 2/2

NYT 9:41
NYS 5:39
1/19 CHE 5:15
LAT 4:28
CS 2:56

WSJ 8:15
Reagle 7:18

(post updated at 9:10 and 9:50 a.m. Friday)

Ah, Friday! I like Fridays. Tuesdays are pretty good because of the extra weekly puzzles (the Onion A.V. Club crossword and Ben Tausig's Ink Well puzzle), but the daily puzzles are generally pretty easy. When Friday rolls around, it usually means a themeless NYT, a wickedly hard Sun (themed or themeless), the show-us-your-book-learnin' Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, the Sunday-sized Wall Street Journal crossword, and an early crack at Merl Reagle's Sunday puzzle.

You know how hard it is to find Bears apparel for your kid three days before the Bears play in the Super Bowl? I couldn't find a sweatshirt until the third store, and all three stores were sold out of the coveted kid-sized jerseys. The students at Ben's school have been instructed to wear Bears gear or colors tomorrow. Sports jingoism!

It's getting late, so I'll hold off on blogging about Byron Walden's Sun Weekend Warrior until the morning and focus my waning neural transmissions on the NYT by David Kahn. Holy schnikes! We've been socked with a rebus puzzle on a Friday! It would have been cruel to run it on a Thursday, rebus or no—these clues were supra-Thursday clues, and the asymmetry of the entries containing the 12 rebus squares (aside from the crossing RAINING and [CAT]S AND [DOG]S in the center) doesn't hand out easy answers. Also, Kahn's puzzle exceeds the standard word-count limit of 78, demonstrating that editors do bend the rules for puzzles they love. This crossword seemed different from most rebus puzzles in that about half the instances, the rebused letters actually stood for a [CAT] or [DOG] (as in [DOG]HOUSE and HEP[CAT]) rather than just a sequence of letters (as in [DOG]MA). It did take me a while to notice that this was a rebus puzzle—who's expecting that on a Friday?—and that there were two kinds of rebuses. Favorite and/or most vexatious clues and answers: For *HOUSE, [Place of disgrace]; I put in [CAT] and couldn't figure out how HOT[CAT] made sense. (Because it didn't, of course. [DOG]HOUSE!) I never knew CAT'S PAW meant "stooge." My mind read [E.T.S. offering] as [E.M.S. offering], so I plugged in CPR instead of GRE (Whoops. Minor difference.). [Lowly post] yielded an answer with consecutive rebus squares: [DOG][CAT]CHER. In the meat arena, [CAT]SUP is a [Burger topper] and ROULADE is a [Meat dish with a filling]. COSETS pops up again as a [Mathematical grouping]—glad that word was in another puzzle not long ago! I needed the help, frankly.

For reference, the entries with rebus action are: 1A, DOGMA; 9A, DOG EAT DOG; 14A, CAT ON; 18A, CAT-O-NINE TAILS; 37A, CAT'S PAW; 41A, CATS AND DOGS; 54A, DOGHOUSE; 62A, CATCH AS CATCH CAN; 70A, DOG IT; 1D, DOGCATCHER; 4D, VACATE; 9D, DOG STAR; 13D, DOGE'S; 31D, LOCATE; 37D, CATSUP; 38D, HOTDOG; 42D, DOGGIE BAGS; 49D, HEPCAT; 51D, CORNDOGS; and 62D, CATER. (Whew!) Unless I counted wrong, there are 94 theme squares in this grid if you include all the words with rebuses, plus RAINING. (Wow!)

Interestingly, both the Kahn puzzle and Byron's Sun puzzle included a 3-letter word with a *AR pattern, clued as [Slander, say] and [Sully], respectively. Both times, I gravitated to the same first letter, and both times, I was wrong. Slow learning curve for me this week.


Byron Walden’s themeless Weekend Warrior in the Sun felt easier than many of his crosswords. The NW quadrant still managed to tie me up in knots—the aforementioned MAR-for-TAR issue muddled 1-Down (PRESTONE, maker of Super Flush), and I had OSCAR NOM instead of OSCAR NOD (the [Short honor?] clue seemed to hint at an abbreviation rather than short-subject films), obscuring George EADS and further hiding PRESTONE. The adjacent REST AREA is clued as [Place with stop-and-go traffic?]. Off to the right, [Pupillary sphincter] is IRIS ("A sphincter says what?"). That crosses the "Mikado" setting, TITIPU—sphincter, go, PU, Flush? Moving…right along, my favorite clues/entries here were [Last character seen in "Casablanca"] for CLOSE QUOTE (I'm partial to the hyperliteral clues that require solvers to disregard semantics); [Shine sources] for STILLS; [Space City rival] for BIG D; [With nothing too spare] for ORNATE; THE TWINS [Castor and Pollux]; [Indicator of condensation] for ETC; [Eye-catching style, for short] for ITALS; [Anger caused by chemically enhanced beef?] for ROID RAGE; and [Xing folks] for PEDS. So, how did you find the difficulty level compared to that of the typical Weekend Warrior?

I've grown fond of finding Bonnie Gentry's name in crossword bylines. Her Wall Street Journal puzzle, "Turning Around Bear Markets," was packed with anagrams. And in this Simon & Schuster book, puzzle 9 is Bonnie's masterpiece, a 17x17 crossword that's almost themeless—the unifying theme is that every single clue is a question-marked clue. If the askew clues are always your favorite, check out Bonnie's S&S puzzle.

Michael Ashley's January 19 Chronicle of Higher Ed puzzle (or, as I call it in my head, the Chronic) features five famous pseudonyms of Wild West figures. Super-jumbo-bonus points for including a blast from the past in LEO SAYER, clued as ["When I Need You" singer]; ah, the '70s! My mom bought the Leo Sayer album (the one where he wears suspenders on the cover) when I was a kid.

When solving Merl Reagle's Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "Socked In," the haze lifted quickly and I was able to suss out the 11 theme answers without much difficulty. James Sajdak's LA Times puzzle includes one of my favorite words, MAELSTROM, and a French-spelling theme. Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle is called "Pinch Me!"—but the combination of one theme entry, SALT SHAKER (as in "pinch of salt"), along with GYRATING and SPIN CITY, led me to think a dance floor was busting out.