February 26, 2007

Monday, 2/26

NYS 3:37
LAT 3:28
NYT 3:13
CS 2:33

Peter Collins is one of those constructors who seem to specialize in showy little twists, interesting departures from the usual. (Pete Muller, Patrick Merrell, and Patrick Blindauer are others who seem to have an especially high twist-to-nontwist ratio. What is it about the first initial P?) In today's NYT, Peter C. exposes THE HIDDEN AGENDA in three theme entries that contain the letters in AGENDA in order (highlighted by circled squares), spaced out. And for those of you thinking, "Gosh, Ame, that's a kind of slow solving time for you on a Monday," I will irk those of you who were glad to beat me by saying that I was feeling unwell and was happy just to stay awake while solving. Which isn't to say the puzzle was dull—it wasn't—but that I was wiped out. (Peter C.'s last NYT was the ONE-L LAMA one, which isn't so twisty, but his first one had those embedded state names, like IOWA in RADIO WAVES, and I really liked that one. He followed that up with the Beatles rebus puzzle, also showy.)

The way I was solving Mark Feldman's Sun crossword, "Head Cases," I ended up in the bottom corner with -LOGIST and none of the other theme entries filled in. Between the title, the fact that there were three other theme entries, and the length of the -LOGIST answer (16 letters), what else could it be but OTOLARYNGOLOGIST? I like to think my years as a medical editor cracked this puzzle open for me faster than the rest of youse (and please don't disabuse me of that notion, even though the syntax is messed up). The other 16's turned out to be phrases ending with EAR, NOSE, and THROAT. Loved it! (Having BEER GUT in the fill was an anatomical bonus, and PREMED

The CrosSynergy puzzle by Martin Ashwood-Smith is "For the Birds," featuring four bird-based phrases. At first glance, it looks like one of those overly simple "these four things fit a boring category" themes, but that would be PIGEONHOL(E)ing it unfairly. The four entries are all used to describe non-avian things, but all four derive from bird-related physical entities (PIGEONHOLE being a nook for a pigeon, and the other three referring to bird body parts).

The LA Times puzzle's credited to Gia Christian (anagram of "it's Rich again"). The five theme entries look like they're the five senses, but SMELLS, SEES, TOUCHES, and HEARS are joined by SPEAKS rather than TASTES. So how would you describe the theme?