December 20, 2007

Friday, 12/21

NYS 5:32
Jonesin' 4:42
NYT 4:28
CHE 4:28
LAT 4:something (uh, I forgot to note the time)
CS 2:43

WSJ 7:27

Patrick Berry delivers the one-two knockout of the Friday New York Times crossword and the New York Sun "Weekend Warrior." Comparison by the numbers (some of them subjective):

Word count: 64 NYS to 66 NYT
Advantage: Sun

Question-marked clues: 6 NYT to 2 NYS
Advantage: Times

Clues that I found especially entertaining, interesting, or challenging: 16 NYS to 16 NYT
Advantage: tie

Scrabbly letter count: 2 Ks and an X in NYS to 2 Ks and a J in NYT
Advantage: tie

Cool entries: 9 NYT to 6 NYS
Advantage: Times

Clunkier or dull entries: 6 NYS to 6 NYT
Advantage: tie

"Roll your own" words formed with suffixes, prefixes, or excessive pluralizing: really none in either (bravo!)
Advantage: tie

Executive summary: Two superior themeless puzzles with a slight edge to the Times for a smidgen more enjoyment.

Here's what I liked in Berry's Times crossword: First, look what 1-Across is sitting on. BEBOP, UVULA? So close to Be-Bop-A-Lula that you can sing it. Favorite clues: [Novel that nobody reads] for AUDIOBOOK; [Net sales?] for E-COMMERCE (which feels like a real E-word and not, you know, an E-note or E-mag that feels cooked up for a tough spot to fill a crossword grid); [Grave mound] for BARROW (check out the three different meanings of barrow, all with different Old English etyma); speaking of Old English, here's GRENDEL, clued as [Cannibal of Anglo-Saxon legend]; [Union station?] for ALTAR; [The Pearl of the Danube] for BUDAPEST; [Stick on the grill] for SKEWER; [Product lines?] for BAR CODES; [Who's left?] for LIBERALS; and [Bridge declaration] for LAND HO, referring to the bridge of a ship and not that dratted card game that gets so much play in crosswords. Most favored entries: WINSOME smile; INSIDE JOB; VETERAN crossing the DRAFT; HANDILY; [King's successor as S.C.L.C. president] ABERNATHY; GENTLE BEN, the '60s TV show starring a young Clint Howard and a bear (I saw this show 10 years ago on TV in Vienna, dubbed into German, and I don't grasp why they went to the trouble); and WYNTON Marsalis. Side note: 2-Down EVA GABOR was born in 3-Down BUDAPEST.

In Berry's Sun puzzle, three women's names take a variety of clues: PAMELA is [Diplomat Harriman], CLORIS is actress Leachman, and AMANDA is some Boston song I have no recollection of ever hearing. My favorites clues: [Having the most guts?] for GORIEST; [Stubborn] for ORNERY (I get ornery when I'm sleepy); [They go back and forth through trees] for SAWS; [It's far from the point] for HILT; [Statue subject outside of Dolphin Stadium] for MARINO (which I was going to make fun of until I remembered the Michael Jordan statue at the United Center—no, wait, I can still make fun of the Dan Marino statue because it's painted and in a flowerbed); [What actually gets tapped with a hammer during a reflex test] for TENDON; [Special delivery?] for TRIPLETS; [What the chorus of "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" is] for PERSONAL AD; [Purslane and peppergrass, e.g.] for POTHERBS; [Fictional writer of "The World According to Bensenhaver"] for GARP; and [Like some marriages] for SAME-SEX. The best entries: DEAR DIARY; TUMULT (it's an odd-looking word); NORMA RAE with its complete title; BOWLARAMA; UNALASKA instead of its fellow Alaskan island, Attu; and STENCILED.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle, "I Curse You," starts each of five theme entries with idiomatic synonyms for damned or effing. They make a fun quintet! And I won't spoil 'em for you. The Tool album title at 46-Down is said to be a blend of the Jungian word anima and the word enema. Ooo-kay, then.


Nancy Salomon and Bill Zais's joint effort in the Wall Street Journal is a delight! "Christmas Presents" has two gimmicks in the grid—the obvious one is the highlighted squares in the middle, six interlocked 11-letter presents that form a big beribboned box. That's not really a gimmick per se, so much as a cluster of theme entries in a pleasing array. The other gimmick is the rebus entries, the four longest Across and Down answers aside from the gift box in the middle. Each of those long answers includes a wrapped-up [BOX] rebus, and those entries (one of which is, aptly, GIFT-WRAPPED [BOX]) sort of enclose the central gift box in a rebus wrapping paper.

Speaking of Christmas gifts, if you're looking to buy yourself some puzzle books, or to bestow same on others, print out the recommendations Rex and I compiled and head to the bookstore. Me, I'm not done with my shopping, and I haven't gone to the store all week. I should get on that, eh?

Ray Hamel's 12/7 Chronicle of Higher Education crossword is called "Hybrids," and the theme entries are two hybrids that can be plucked and two that can be found in jams—but not necessarily that kind of jam or that kind of plucking. The strangest entry in this puzzle is BEEF TEA, [Broth served to the ailing]. I Googled up a recipe for it and was delighted to see that the website's called "Recipes of the Damned." Yes, indeed. Not recipes I will be making. Speaking of food, the [Sauce put on rice] clue threw me. Asians typically eat white rice plain or with a saucy food on top—and do not douse rice with SOY sauce. (My husband was surprised to learn that I grew up putting butter or margarine on rice, but I drew the line at soy sauce.) Uncommon vocabulary word in the grid: RENITENT, [Uncompliant].

Dan Naddor's LA Times crossword is fortified with five essential minerals, worked into the theme entries in a successfully punny way. As a bonus, some of the theme entries are rather Scrabbly. Interesting fill and clues—overall an enjoyable solve. (And here, SOY is a [Vegan staple] rather than an Americanized abomination on rice.)

Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Striking It Rich," highlights three phrases synonymous with rich. Quite easy despite the generous amounts of white space.