April 07, 2007

Sunday, 4/8

NYT 12:15*
WaPo 11:14
LAT 8:36
BG 7:15
CS 4:15

(post updated at 10:15 a.m. Sunday)

There's an asterisk after my NYT solving time because I test-solved Byron Walden's "In Other Words" puzzle almost a year ago, before he submitted it to Will. I did an excellent job at forgetting what the theme was during the interim, and the clues and fill are tough, and it's a supersized 23x23 grid, so yes, it took considerably longer than the typical Sunday puzzle.

The theme doesn't give anything away—the clues are cross-references like [123-Across or 96-Down?], and the answer pairs that correspond to each longer theme entry are flip-flopped spatially—the pairs at the top go with the theme entries in the bottom half of the grid. (I'll give them away in the next paragraph, but you can keep plugging away with smaller spoilers from this paragraph if you want to.) The clues are harder than usual. NAIAD is [Neptune's closest moon] rather than a nymph, for example. Other tough bits: [Undying flower] for AMARANTH, [Pot builder] for CERAMIST, [It begins here] for AITCH (as in the first letter of "here"), IF I MIGHT ("Assuming it's O.K. with you..."]), [How Peter denied Jesus] for THRICE, the THREE-BODY Problem of celestial mechanics, [Person behind bars?] for TAVERNER, [Put (down)] for PLUNK, [It often features the quadratic formula] for ALGEBRA I, [Like some stars] for BINARY, [Months after Tebets] for SHEBATS, [Oxford lengths] for METRES, [Hamburger shack?] for HAUS, [Saloon habitués, slangily] for B GIRLS, and [What goes in your nose to make noise?] for AN I.

The pair of words that intersect in each corner of the grid are anagrams, and tie into the theme entry such that MARRIEDS and DISARMER (in the NW corner) are SECRET ADMIRERS (a third anagram of that pair). BEING FAT and FANG BITE (in the NE corner) go with UNDERCOVER FBI AGENT; GLIBNESS and B SINGLES go with BLESSING IN DISGUISE; and ENGRAVES and NERVE GAS are MASKED AVENGERS.


Wow. You know Byron's puzzle must be impressive when the folks at the NYT crossword forum are actually talking about a crossword puzzle.

Harvey Estes' "Spell It Out" puzzle from the Washington Post also seemed fairly tough. The theme plays around with 3-letter abbreviations that are also words, and expands the "abbreviation" so that the Roman era becomes the ROMAN EARNED RUN AVERAGE. Fairly hard cluing overall. OLEO was clued here as [Prefix with resin]. I don't really understand what oleoresin is, but I can tell you that the paprika oleoresin used to color Trader Joe's sweet-and-sour sauce seems to stain more tenaciously than most artificial food colors...

Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's Boston Globe crossword, "Lost Time," must've originally run on the day when daylight saving time returned—the theme entries have lost ONE HOUR, or the letter pair HR. [Blossom that doesn't float], for example, is SINKING VIOLET. Never heard of the ORPHEAN [Variety of warbler]; it's an Old World bird, so no wonder. Aside from the mystery bird, the rest of the puzzle seemed fairly easy.

Donna Kahwaty's syndicated LA Times Sunday puzzle, "Free Association," startled me early on with [It doesn't hurt to do it], 3 letters, *S*. LSD?!? Er, no. ASK. I tried to outwit myself again when the clue was [Write seperate checks?] and I typed in MISSPELM for the answer (d'oh!). The theme entries here all phrases that start with words that may be preceded by "free," such as free RADICAL (CHIC) and free SPIRIT (GUM).

Ray Hamel's CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge gave me a li'l trouble: While I knew [Stitch's pal] LILO, I wasn't familiar with underdog '92 Kentucky Derby winner LIL E. TEE or country singer LILA McCann.