February 28, 2008

Friday, 2/29

NYS 11:29
NYT 6:52
CHE 6:34
Jonesin' 4:12

I'll be leaving for Brooklyn first thing in the morning, so any crosswords I don't get to tonight will not get their blogular due. Same with the Saturday and Sunday puzzles—I'll probably do them all next week sometime, but blogging about them may or may not come to pass. Fair warning: the Saturday NYT will probably be extra-gnarly.

By the way, if you missed seeing me on Merv Griffin's Crosswords a few weeks ago but wanted to, and Nancy's YouTube version doesn't sate you, on Tuesday you can see me on episode two if your city airs two shows a day.

First up: Pete Muller's New York Sun puzzle. In "Return of the Indivisibles," the three longest entries give the instructions for the juicy gimmick: ENTER ANSWERS TO / DEREBMUN-EMIRP (that's PRIME-NUMBERED backwards) / CLUES IN REVERSE. That means that 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 23, 29, 31, 43, 53, and 59-Down and 5, 17, 19, 23, 37 (theme instruction), 41, 47, 61, and 67-Across are to be entered backwards, and the rest are entered normally. (I thought 1 counted as a prime number, and I'm sure one of you mathy people will explain why not.) 2-Down, for example, is AIXELSYD, or dyslexia, [What may make coroners look like crooners?] (love the clue!). It took me plenty of time to figure out the theme, and plenty more time to go back and reverse answers—though I confess it was driven more by crossings that wouldn't work than by paying attention to which numbers were prime. Favorite clues: ABE = [Chicago sausage king Froman impersonated by Ferris Bueller] (we were just reminiscing about Abe Froman!); [Wet bar, often] for SOAP; [Palm reading?] for EMAIL (as in a Palm Pilot PDA); [Envoy, e.g.] for SUV (my friend Robin was once in a GMC envoy commercial filmed in the Czech Republic); [Tighten up, perhaps] for EDIT; and [Rocket center] for YAO Ming, whose season has ended prematurely because of a stress fracture. I'm nominating this puzzle in the best gimmick puzzle of the year category. I enjoyed this puzzle from start to finish, and liked unwinding the reversals. It took me far longer than most crosswords, but it wasn't frustrating or a slog—it was nice to linger over it a bit.

The Friday puzzles bring another nominee for best gimmick puzzle of the year—Patrick Berry's Chronicle of Higher Education crossword, "A Wild Time." This theme also screws with crossword conventions, with seven theme entries that skip a square, each one clued as [Animal known for jumping]. The beasties leap over a 3-letter abbreviation for a day of the week, squeezed into a rebus square; the days are given in order from MON to SUN, top to bottom. 59-Across explains what each of the animals does: LEAP DAYS. This is a brilliant concept for a Leap Day puzzle, executed deftly. The calendar order and the theme entries being restricting to jumping animals? Elegant! The CRICK/ET crosses TI[MON]; the OR/CA, STA[TUE] (anyone else try the ORYX?); ANT/ELOPE, CA[WED]; FL/EA, AR[THU]R; HA/RE, A[FRI]CA; KANGA/ROO, [SAT]ED; and FR/OG, [SUN]DER.

Leading into tournament weekend, Patrick Berry's also got the New York Times crossword. In this pinwheel grid, there are three full titles (Vanilla Ice's ICE ICE BABY, the Pryor/Wilder movie ANOTHER YOU, [Bernard Malamud's debut novel] THE NATURAL), numerous phrases (IN A POTHER, SKATE OVER, MAIDEN NAME, BETWEEN US, LEMON LAW), and interesting words (CONTESSA, MANITOBA), and the clue list has its highlights as well. My favorites: [Product once advertised with the catchphrase "There's no step 3!"] for IMAC; [In-house debugging] for ALPHA TESTS (software testing!); [Person at the wheel?] for a POTTER throwing clay pots; [Dispel a curse?] for BLEEP; [Soft spread] for BEDCOVER (100% oleo-free!); [Hang it up] for RETIRE and [Stop working] for TAKE A BREAK; [Classical art medium] for VASE; [Home for Ojibwa and Cree] for MANITOBA; [Split right before your eyes?] for BIFOCAL lens; [Go for a party, say] for VOTE; and [Picture writing, of a sort] for REBUS. Toughest bits, likely: [___ volatile] for SAL; [Goes to bed, in Britspeak] for KIPS.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' crossword is called "Pretty Cheesy—any way you prepare it." How do you prepare cheese? APPLE CRUMBLE it, I MELT WITH YOU it, FIREPLACE GRATE it, etc. Favorite entries: HOME SLICE; FLUMP, which is actually a word but I didn't know it; Frida KAHLO; ["Dirty Jobs host Mike] ROWE (Dirty Jobs is this family's favorite show to watch together); BOURNE, the Matt Damon character; PEPPERPOT soup; UROLOGIST ([Doctor who must've been a whiz in med school?]); and HEATH BAR (yum!). Tons of pop culture, not all of which I'm young enough to know, but a fun puzzle.

Crikey, I need to pack for my trip! Cheers, and I'll see many of you in Brooklyn.