September 20, 2007

Friday, 9/21

NYS 8:50
LAT 6:24
NYT 5:48
CHE I dunno, 4:00-ish?
Jonesin' 3:22
CS 3:19

WSJ 7:43

Okay, commencing blogging with sentence fragments owing to freelance work time crunch.

Loved Byron Walden's tasty and asymmetrical Weekend Warrior from the New York Sun. Terrific Scrabbly fill: RAN INTO A BUZZSAW and AL JAZEERA crossing BJ AND THE BEAR, SQUARE ROOT, and the apt PUZZLE OUT. Plenty of lively entries, both words we don't often see in crosswords and fresh phrases: DEWCLAWS, mind like a STEEL TRAP, PHOTO OPS (not merely [Photo ___]), actress LINDA EVANS with a project I didn't know she did, and a touch of geography with YEREVAN (the [Capital on the Hrazdan River]—and that's in Armenia). My favorite clues: [Mustard, for example] = COLONEL; [Taster's choice?] = WINE BAR; the noun [Conduct] = PS AND QS; [Julian I] = EGO (as in Latin first person singular); [Upright] = PIOUS (raise your hand if you started with PIANO); [Social services?] = TEA SETS; [Stop order?] = WHOA; [Display pattern] = RASTER (I know this word from shopping for a desktop publishing monitor in the '90s; still have no idea what it really means); [Scotch flavorer] = PEAT; horribly pop-cult [Show that begat "Lobo"] = BJ AND THE BEAR (back then, I had a crush on the star, Greg Evigan, but not the monkey); the mathy [Radical solution?] = SQUARE ROOT; [Sport with body wires] = EPEE (no idea what "body wires" are); [Get, with some effort] = PUZZLE OUT; good ol' St. ANSELM = [Saint who originated the ontological argument]; [Paddling for pleasure?] = BOAT RIDE (and no, I didn't think of naughty spanking while solving); the deliberately misleading [Held consistent views] = STARED; [Cooperstown position] = UPSTATE; [Its flag has the Union Jack in the upper left] = HAWAII (why??); [Attacked jointly?] = KNEED in the groin; [Positions of power] = ONS of on/off switches; two cigarette clues, [Lights come-on] = LESS TAR and [Salem outcast] = ASH; [Quick draw] of breath = GASP; [Political shootings?] = PHOTO OPS; and the noun [Stir] = SPLASH. The single most enjoyable clue/answer combo for me was [Question that comes before and after "or"] = AM I RIGHT—husband and I often say that with the intonation of insurance salesman Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day. Never heard of Super Bowl XXV MVP OTTIS Anderson. I wouldn't have known [Photons] = QUANTA (plural of quantum) were it not for a recent NYT puzzle with that answer. [She, in Italian] is LEI? Huh. Live and learn.

So, in sum: Fabulous puzzle, didn't miss the symmetry at all, felt I got my money's worth (so to speak). Can't single out that many clues and not toss this puppy into my "great puzzles" folder, can I?

Verrrrry nice New York Times puzzle from Paula Gamache, too! 'Tis a good day for themeless action. Paula's puzzle has symmetry and three triple-stacks of 15-letter answers—and all nine of those 15s are great. Some politics in each third—Reagan's [Classic line of debate?], THERE YOU GO AGAIN, up top; AIR AMERICA RADIO, the liberal outpost on the airwaves; and a LIBERAL DEMOCRAT in charge at the bottom. There's one football team (SEATTLE SEAHAWKS), much more lively than most entries packed with that many Ss, Es, and Ts. And a batch of in-the-language phrases: AS BAD AS BAD CAN BE, LITTLE OR NOTHING, OVER AND DONE WITH, and ANY PORT IN A STORM. MAKE A RESOLUTION is the dullest of the bunch, and it's completely fine—it just can't keep up with the other eight who've raised the bar. Other highlights" FAJITA crossing TAMALE; [Second of 24] Greek letters, BETA; [Arm raiser, informally] for the DELT (oid) muscle; [Toot] for BINGE; [Yo-yo] for JERK. You know, usually I'm not too excited by triple-stacks, and the more 15s there are, the less I like the fill. In this puzzle, though, I felt the 15s were the best part of the crossword—that's gotta be hard to pull off.

Kudos to Byron and Paula and their respective editors, Peter Gordon and Will Shortz. Am happy solver tonight.

Quick Update:

Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle: Lots of fun. Theme: "Why the Face?" Featuring four thespians with distinctive faces, one who [always looks creepy as hell], one who [always looks like he's about to kick someone's ass], one who [always looks pissed off], and one who [always looks like she just sucked on a lemon]. Matt's got these actors dead to rights. No real spoilers here—but if you like those post-millennium, hipster-skewing, pop-culture-heavy crosswords, download this PDF and have fun with it.

If you like puzzles that hew closer to the classic vein, try Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Lincoln Center." The overall gestalt of the clues and fill felt old-school to me.

Russell Brown, who's been commenting here of late, created the September 7 Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle. This is one savory treat! Download this Across Lite puzzle and dig in! No, the theme in "Middle Marches" isn't food, despite my remarks. And I won't spoil it for you, because the theme's so cool, I want you to discover it for yourself. The theme's so deftly executed and such a neat idea, I'm putting this one in my "great puzzles" folder, too.

Jack McInturff's LA Times puzzle kicks a RE out of each theme entry's base phrase. "Our little secret" thus becomes [Motto of a small splinter group?], OUR LITTLE SECT. Not too easy to make out the theme answers as I worked my way through the puzzle, though, even after figuring out the trick in TAKE A DEEP BATH.

Updated again:

Whoops, forgot to do the Wall Street Journal puzzle this morning. (So that explains why I finished puzzling and blogging earlier than I'd expected.) The byline reads Colin Gale, which means the puzzle's by WSJ crossword editor Mike Shenk. Each theme entry ads a CO at the beginning.