December 13, 2007

Friday, 12/14

NYS 7:55
CHE 4:35
NYT 4:21
Jonesin' tba
LAT 4:02
CS 3:32—here's a link that works

WSJ 7:03

New addictive online pastime! Today, my husband sent me a link to the Traveler IQ Challenge, where you race to peg the location of, say, the capital city of the Solomon Islands, or Edinburgh Castle, or Gaborone, Botswana. There are 12 levels, and I haven't successfully completed level 12 (yet). I have made it through level 11, though. If you're a geography geek, give it a try, and rejoice if you manage to come within 200 km of the right spot. (It's heartbreaking to be 6,000 km off, really.) If you play enough rounds, you'll start seeing some of the same places, so you can learn from your mistakes and do better next time. So far, I've only done the world-map game, but there are also smaller maps to choose from. I like my odds with Africa, I gotta say.

Manny Nosowsky's previous publication was a Tuesday puzzle with a theme that put me off kilter. A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE was combined with three food dishes that wouldn't be eaten together, one of which probably wants to be served in a bowl. In his themeless Friday New York Times crossword, that same 15-letter entry redeems itself by anchoring a triple-stack in the middle of an eminently solid grid. I don't know about you, but I found yesterday's knotty John Farmer puzzle to be a little harder than this one.

Things I hadn't known: ADOLPHE was the [Luxembourg grand duke in whose name an annual art prize is awarded]—that'd be the Prix Grand-Duc Adolphe, of course. [Ba preceder] is ALIF—I knew ALIF was the first letter of the Arabic alphabet from crosswords, but hadn't seen the ba and ta that follow it. A [Neighbor of Hoboken, N.J.] is UNION CITY; how sad was I when the town starting with U wasn't one of those silly-sounding names like Parsippany? I had hopes. I filled this one in from the crossings, but sure as heck didn't know that LAVA was a [Flow from a coulee]. What does the American Heritage Dictionary say? It says that geologists are nuts because coulee is used to mean four entirely different things, including a stream of lava.

The clues I liked best: [It may be kept in a boot] means a TYRE, "boot" being Britspeak for the trunk of a car and "tyre" being Britspeak for tire. (The most charming thing about my 2000 VW is that when the trunk's open, the dashboard reads "BOOTLID IS OPEN." (And when the windshield wiper fluid is low, it says "TOP UP WASH FLUID." Righty-o, then!) [Went through] means PIERCED, as with an AWL (just one example of a [Hand tool]). [Zealots have them]: AGENDAS. So do the people chairing a meeting. [Something to bid] is ADIEU and not, thankfully, something from bridge or canasta. (And no, I've got no idea if canasta involves bidding.) What does ["Fuhgeddaboudit!"] mean? "HELL, NO!" I think my mom had a copy of Wayne W. DYER's "Your Erroneous Zones" in the '70s, and I thought it was something risqué. Coolest entries: RORSCHACH / TEST split across two spots; ST JOHN'S; SANTA ANNA; and BIOMASS.

For a tougher challenge, I turned to the New York Sun puzzle by Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke. Sure, the title, "Test Cramming," suggested a rebus theme wedging multiple letters into a single box, but did I let that point me in the direction of a rebus puzzle? Not for too long, alas. I think the rebus action has a touch of asymmetry—the two longest Across and Down answers have standardized test abbreviations in them, and so does the crossing of 24-Across and 26-Down (UN[SAT]ED and [SAT]YRS). If there's another rebus entry opposite one of those two answers, I don't see it; perhaps there is one, and Across Lite accepted just the first letter? I don't know. Those long ones are FIL[M CAT]ALOGUE, SHOOTIN[G MAT]CH, WINTER[GRE]ENS, and CONTR[ACT]S OUT. That last one duped me, because OUTSOURCES also fits the space. Groovy theme!


Wow, there are some tough clues in Annemarie Brethauer's 11/30 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword. The five theme entries in "WIld Guesses" are clued with the binomial name (i.e., genus and species) of animals, and the task is to come up with the common, non-Latinate name of the animal. The theme's a fun quiz if you're into this sort of quiz (I enjoyed it). Answers that were decidedly not gimmes for me: [Long face?] for CLIFF; [Cape Verde island] for SAL; [City on the Salt River] for MESA; the clever [Bear with one's child] for TEDDY (noun, not verb!); [Small fox with big ears] for FENNEC; and [Fustanella wearers] for MEN (Great outfits! Who doesn't love a man in a pleated miniskirt?). There's one ort of old-school crosswordese: PTAH, the [Memphis deity]. More cleverness with [Bankable notes?] for DO-RE-MI and [Female Romney] for EWE. And the MUPPET guys, [Statler or Waldorf, e.g.], are always welcome. The puzzle could've used a different title, though—wild also shows up in one animal name. Loved this crossword!

Alison Donald's LA Times crossword has a good set of theme entries that change an ING (and not a gerund ending -ing) into INK. A [Come-on on the range?] is a BUFFALO WINK, and that's a funny image. I could think of a much racier clue for BURGER KINK than [Former Chief Justice's muscle stiffness?]—I wonder if the constructor's original clue hinted at something kinkier. Kind of a party vibe here, with DORMS, GIN, RYES used in Manhattans, COSMO's online "Guy Gallery"—and CUFF could certainly go with the KINK.

The theme in Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle, "Two by Two: Dissecting a fearsome foursome," was a little tricky to tease out. I think it's the pluralized 2-letter words made from A, B, C, and D: WASHBOARD ABS, RECORDABLE CDS, CLASSIFIED ADS, and LONG-RANGE CBS. Most out-there, seldom-seen clues and entries: the kids' song "I'M A NUT" (I don't know this one), BFD (meaning "big effing deal"), and Canadian singer-songwriter FEIST (who has jettisoned her first name). Also quite good: LIONS' DEN, PLASTER CAST, BACKSPACING, and [It may have Braille markings, even on a drive-thru version] for ATM.

I couldn't download Patrick Jordan's CrosSynergy puzzle from or the usual link at Puzzle Pointers—deeper into Puzzle Pointers, there was a working link (see top of this post). I think the Chronicle's site is a tad kerflooey today. Anyway: The theme in "Nothing to Squawk About" is a riddle: WHAT DO YOU / CALL A PARROT'S / LOSS OF MEMORY? Answer: POLYNESIA. (Groan.)

Today's Wall Street Journal crossword, "Company Mergers," is credited to Colin Gale, one of editor Mike Shenk's alter egos. The theme involves anagrams, and it was plenty o' fun. Fairly easy, but not lacking cleverness. In fact, it would take me far too long to list all the clues that I liked, clues with pleasing "aha" moments. Just do this puzzle yourself, will you? It'll be a good time—smooth fill, zingy clues.