March 27, 2008

Friday, 3/28

Whopping Weekend Warrior (Sun) 16:46
LAT 6:02
NYS 5:59
NYT 5:46
CHE 5:02
Jonesin' 4:14
CS 2:37

WSJ 10:02

Last week, the New York Sun published a section with a "Whopping Weekend Warrior," a jumbo 25x25 themeless grid filled by Patrick Berry. The middle of the puzzle is a ribbon of about two dozen interlaced 7-letter entries. The average word length is between 6 and 7 letters, and there are far more long entries than there are 3- and 4-letter ones. So it's really a masterful construction with boatloads of wide-open white space. I counted five people in the grid with their first and last names together. Favorite clues: ["Peace" time?] for the SIXTIES; the adjective [Expert in government policy] for WONKY; [Game featuring a Pop-O-Matic] for TROUBLE; [Player's choice?] for musical INSTRUMENT; [Set right] for INDENT; [You have to lay out a lot to get them] for SUNTANS; [On a plane] for EQUAL; [Good beating] for PULSE; [Gets stock from] for BOILS; [Prospector's laborer] for PACK MULE; [Like chew toys, often] for SLOBBERY; [They're often put on the bench] for BOTTOMS; and [One for all, say] for a ROUND of drinks. If you have an abiding affection for themeless crosswords, don't be daunted by the size of this one. It's almost triple the size of a 15x15 crossword, so I think it maps out to about a Friday NYT level, not a wicked Saturday level. (And isn't it a shame that there aren't more outlets for jumbo themelesses? I think the Sun has one each spring, and Games World of Puzzles a Frank Longo's 21x27 in each issue, and Games has the Ornery 25x25 in each issue. Want more!)

Barry Silk constructed the New York Times crossword, a smooth 68-worder. I skimmed through all of the Across clues for the top of the puzzle and found no gimmes, so I looked at the Downs and started with [How much of genius is inspiration, according to Edison], or ONE PERCENT (perspiration's the other 99%). The whole upper and left zones were the most resistant for me. Favorite morsels: [What seeds may be found in] for a TOURNEY, like the NCAA basketball going on right now); the [Stadium snack] that is a SOFT PRETZEL; [Time to burn?] for SUMMER; [Part of some complexes] for NEUROSIS (hmm, not an apartment complex, and not something from chemistry); [Symbol of limpness] for WET RAG (how long before the Cialis folks start using the wet rag image?) right before [Symbols of authority] (royal ORBS); [Where to order a cheesesteak "wit" or "witout"] for SOUTH PHILLY; [Reprimand lead-in] for "SEE HERE"; [Make a point of] for SHARPEN; the [W.W. II shelter] called a QUONSET HUT; SWAP MEET ([Cousin of a flea market]); [Like typhoid bacteria, often] for WATERBORNE (infectious disease epidemiology!); and basketball's SIXTH MAN, the [Best substitute on the court].

If you're wondering why the hell [Six bells, nautically] means THREE P.M., cast your jaundiced eye on this explanation of nautical time. Apparently six bells could also signal 3, 7, or 11 a.m. or 11 p.m. Who is ROSALIA, [Patron saint of Palermo]? She lived in a cave. Probably not much of a people person, eh? Can anyone explain how I ended up with EYECUP for [Spectacle] for a while? It's an EYEFUL.

According to this article about Philly cheesesteaks, Philly is also known for the SOFT PRETZEL; I'll bet you a dollar that Barry Silk's original clue tied the pretzel to Philadelphia rather than stadiums.

The Friday New York Sun puzzle is a rebus puzzle by Kurt Mengel and Jan-Michele Gianette. This "Good-Looking Crossword" has nine [EYE] rebus squares distributed among seven symmetrically placed Across entries; one symmetrical pair of entries has an extra pair of eyes (SEE EYE TO EYE and EYE FOR AN EYE). Favorite clues/answers: [Baseball Hall of Famer Traynor] for PIE (this one is now a gimme because Rex was so effusive about Pie Traynor last year); ["Our Character, Our Future" author Keyes] for ALAN (because Alan Keyes is a nut); [Said three times, Fat Albert's greeting] for HEY; and [Lobster peduncle] for EYESTALK.

Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle, "Box Set," recasts phrases that end with a -CKS so that they end with -X breakfast cereals (which are sold in boxes). [Swishes one's spoon around the cereal bowl?] is TURNS A FEW TRIX, for example. Favorite entries: DADS-TO-BE, THIN CRUST pizza, and the somewhat Scrabbly FAUXHAWK and LOCKJAW. Favorite clues: [Large guy who can fit in narrow spaces] for SANTA; [Diet ad caption] foro AFTER; and [Bath butt] (as in Bath, England) for ARSE.

I thought about continuing on to solve the Wall Street Journal puzzle tonight, but I began to nod off whilst doing the Chronicle of Higher Education crossword by Larry Shearer. "They're Animals!" is the theme and the theme entries are people whose first names (or nicknames) are beasties: There's TIGER WOODS and BEAR BRYANT, representing sports; BAT MASTERSON, about whom I couldn't have told you a thing (Wikipedia says he was Wyatt Earp's deputy at one point); and the amphibian NEWT GINGRICH. Did you know that the Pacific nation of Tuvalu used to be called the ELLICE Islands? I didn't.


I figured out the trick in Lee Glickstein's LA Times crossword quickly, but that didn't mean I charged through the puzzle. The first few Across clues meant nothing to me, and one sounded themey, so I looked at 1-Across's opposite number, 62-Across. [Reverend honored in this puzzle]? Well, the most famous reverend linked to wordplay is SPOONER, and the other five theme entries were all spoonerisms (the initial sounds of two words are swapped). [Reverend turns wage issuer into Mother's Day minister?] is MAY PASTOR, a spoonerism of paymaster, which is a word I've never heard anywhere but from my grandmother. A calm sea changes spelling more dramatically to become PSALM KEY. The elegance of this theme is that each of the spoonerized answers is churchy—there are a PEW, MASS, and church SPIRE in addition to the PASTOR and PSALM. I'm guessing that COOL PEW (pool cue) was Lee's seed entry. Overall, fairly tough cluing and fill, I thought. [Laughed mockingly] is the seldom-used FLEERED; [Gets into shape] is MOLDS; [Storage sites] are DISKS; [National Soccer Hall of Fame city] is ONEONTA. My favorite clues: [The last thing a fish might eat?] for BAIT; [One of 109 in Vatican City] for ACRE; [Like some retreats] for HASTY (as in "beat a hasty retreat"); and [Back supports?] for PATS on the back.

Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Social Group," is mighty easy for a Friday puzzle. (The CrosSynergy puzzles seem to run at roughly a Tuesday or Wednesday NYT difficulty level Monday through Saturday—but the other Friday puzzles are tougher so this one's like a warmup.) The four theme entries begin with words that can follow CLUB (65-Across, the last Across answer). CLUB STEAK and CLUB SANDWICH, yes. CLUB CARD and CLUB ROOM seem less natural to me. I don't know what those are, exactly. One semi-nit: SERB is clued as [Kosovo native]. According to this page, 92% of Kosovars are ethnically Albanian while 5.3% are Serbs. The U.S. now recognizes Kosovo as an independent state and not a province of Serbia.

I always enjoy a good Harvey Estes 21x21 puzzle. The title of his Wall Street Journal crossword, "That's It, End of Story," echoes Harvey's fondness for cryptic crosswords: Each of the seven theme entries has ITY added within it, or IT and the Y that's at the end of storY. Favorite theme entries: "No prob, man" becomes the superhero lacking in moral rectitude, NO PROBITY MAN; the song "C.C. Rider" becomes CITY-CITY RIDER, an [Interurban commuter?]; in an uproar becomes an INANITY UPROAR—and doesn't the world have too many inanity uproars? Especially in a political season. And on the internet. And in the world of reality TV.