March 29, 2007

Friday, 3/30

NYS 11:29
3/16 CHE 5:22
LAT 4:28
NYT 4:15
CS 3:22
3/9 CHE 3:20

WSJ 9:18
3/25 Reagle 7:59
4/1 Reagle 7:33

(updated around 12:30 p.m. Friday)

I'm doing a little catch-up on last weekend's puzzles as well as tending to the usual Friday puzzles.

This week's Friday Sun offering is the annual near-April-Fool's-Day "Wacky Weekend Warrior" by Trip Payne. A 56-worder with expanses of unbroken white space (just 17 black squares) certainly looks impressive, and it takes a nice, long time to solve, but it's unabashedly crazy. [The philosophy behind colatherapy] is SODA HEALS, naturally. This puzzle is not TWADDLELESS, not by a long shot. I actually find TIC-TAC-TOE TACTIC to be oddly pleasing, though. Must be fun to write the clues for these Wacky themelesses!

The 3/9 Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle that was posted last week, Michael Ashley's "Passing the Time," features five prisons plus a handful of penal-related shorter entries. This must be one of the easiest CHE puzzles to date.

Eric Berlin had last week's Wall Street Journal puzzle; I picked up the paper at the Avis counter last Friday but didn't do the puzzle until this week. No idea what my solving time was—I did it at the Urban Tea Lounge and the playground. Really liked the theme, which combined pairs of state nicknames; e.g., GOLDEN (California's the Golden State) SUNSHINE (Florida's the Sunshine State). I don't recall any other specifics and I'm not about to fish it out of the trash to review it. Not that it's a trashworthy crossword, but that's where it's gone.

Just did last week's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle by Merl Reagle, "It's R Moving Day." I thought it was another version of a theme he did for the ACPT last year, but the Across Lite Notepad tells me it's actually the same one. You know what? I still like it. Favorite R-relocated entries: IT'S GEEK TORME and BRILLO FIGHTS.

Quarfoot! This Friday's NYT crossword was constructed by David Quarfoot, who was at the ACPT (like Merl, Eric, and Trip). I wouldn't be surprised to see his byline on an ACPT puzzle one of these years, and I'd welcome it. This themeless was a little meaty, but with classic Quarfootian fill like HOMEBOY and TEA COZY. Okay, so maybe TEA COZY doesn't shout DQ; fine. I wormed my way into the puzzle with 11-Across, Philip ROTH, but that corner (and its opposite) didn't spill over much into the rest of the grid. Highlights: the READ MY LIPS / NO NEW TAXES mini-theme; EDDIE MONEY (ah, '80s MTV, how I miss ye); [Start of a break-in?] for AHEM; the enthusiastic "YES, LET'S!"; the not-stale clue [Language closely related to Montagnais] for CREE; [Pop label] for PEPSI; the athlete's REST DAY; my name backwards and my birthstone; NEREUS the sea god, who apparently preceded Poseidon; [Robin's place] for BATCAVE; [Knuckle head?] for SILENT K (still waiting for the SILENT B to make an appearance; [Numb end?] or [Conclusion of a climb?], perhaps?); YOKO ONO's full name; and [Pitch] for DEEP-SIX.


Superb 3/16 Chronicle of Higher Ed puzzle from Manny Nosowsky. "Mascot Madness" is sort of timely, with March Madness still going on (unless it finished up without my noticing, which it certainly could have, but it was definitely a factor back on 3/16). I knew a grand total of one theme entry (my husband grew up in Wisconsin, so I knew BUCKY BADGER). I knew Illinois State's team was the REDBIRDs, but not that there was a REGGIE. Oregon has DUCKs, yes, but DONALD? Really? And SYCAMORE SAM (is he, perchance, a tree?) and PISTOL PETE, complete mysteries to me. So the theme was tough for me, but so was the rest of the puzzle. {Roman Catholic Church's first jubilee year] is MCCC ( dates back to around 800 A.D.? Or 300? Or 1250?) There's a mathematician named Niels Henrik ABEL who died of TB at age 26 so he is remembered for work he did while quite young. MUDCAT is a catfish. Other entries I liked: TENDS BAR; EYE CANDY; the fish that will BITE the BAITed hook (those words crossing at the B). Favorite clues: two nouns that looked like verbs—[Hit back?] for SIDE B and [Run down the hill] for SLOPE—and a clue that looked like a noun or preposition but wasn't—[Behind] for LOSING.

I really liked Liz Gorski's Wall Street Journal puzzle, "Miner Miracle," and figured out the SILVER STREAK gimmick of having an [AG] rebus in every square across the middle. (She did a variant of this some months back in a Simon & Schuster collection, with marching [ANT]s.) Six theme entries plus 21 rebus squares in a row, plus those 21 Down entries crossing the rebuses—impressive! However, I ground to a halt in the upper right corner, in large part because I opted to decide that a "side" of a right triangle could be an ELL rather than a LEG. Didn't know the VERDI opera or symphony or whatever "I Lombardi" is, never heard of the racehorse ZEV that crossed him, and blanked on [Peter Gunn's girlfriend] EDIE. Plus, [Leading indicator?] was BATON—perhaps I should be quicker to suspect classical music from Liz, who plays the viola. The crossing of AQUAVITS and SALAD BAR made the pain worthwhile, though.

This weekend's Merl Reagle puzzle, "New Words I'd Like To See," contains 11 non-words aptly defined. For example, [Government in which people only think they rule?] is a DEMOCKRACY. ("It's funny because it's true!"—Homer Simpson.) Fun crossword, and I liked it a lot, but I'm fresh out of commentary at the moment.

Sunday is April Fool's Day. I hope plenty of the weekend's crosswords will try to mess with our heads in honor of the occasion!