March 15, 2008

Sunday, 3/16

NYT 9:13
PI 7:39
BG 8:33
WP 7:48

LAT 7:54
CS 3:23
Newsday 5:25

I know that everyone is happy when they click on the Sunday NYT link and up pops a Liz Gorski puzzle. As usual, this one doesn't disappoint...

The theme of the NY Times puzzle today is "Getting a Little R and R". It's pretty obvious from the title what the trick will be, adding 2 R's to common phrases to get theme entries (I wish I had paid more attention to the title of ACPT puzzle five, it might have saved me a couple of minutes if I had really thought about it). In this case, the theme is adding a single R to two separate words in the phrase. This leads to some fun entries such as PRETTY CRASH ACCOUNT instead of PETTY CASH ACCOUNT, HOMER AWAY FROM HOMER (I can't really believe that Homer Simpson has read "The Odyssey"!), PORKER FARCES, and FRIST FRIGHTS. I thought the long central theme entry, I GAVE IT MY BREST SHORT, was the biggest stretch of the bunch, but I'm more impressed now that I see that not only does Brest actually host a Film Festival, but it actually features short films! On top of the five across entries, Liz also squeezes in 2 9-letter verticals, DRIP INTRO, and perhaps my favorite of the bunch, MORON PIER. (Whoops and let's not forget the two 9-letter acrosses, TORTE BRAG and CROW CHIRP for a total of 9 theme entries, wow!) The grid is nice and wide open including a couple of triple stacked 8's worthy of a Saturday themeless. Would this band qualify as the MOTLIEST? I didn't realize that was a word. All in all, an outstanding construction.

This week's Merl Reagle offers another variation of the St. Patrick's Day theme. This one offers fun anagrams of various people with the surname GREEN. So, CY GREEN stays at the REGENCY, THOMAS GREEN detests HATEMONGERS, and GAIL GREEN enjoys GINGER ALE, among others. Some great vertical entries, including REDLINING (I thought that always referred to tachometers), POSITRONS, AMORTIZES (carrying on the mortgage theme) DADDY'S CAR, and BAD MOVIE. Lots of fun.

Henry Hook's Boston Globe puzzle had my favorite theme of the day so far. Called P-R-E-F-I-X-E-S, it contains 8 long theme entries formed by appending each letter of PREFIXES in order to a common phrase. So starting with P, we get PUTTER NONSENSE, R gives us RAFTER THOUGHT (my favorite), EDEN MOTHER, FLIGHT WEIGHT and so on. XRAY ROMANO and SPRINTING PRESS were other favorites. This was a great puzzle, I thought.

I wasn't familiar with the constructor of today's Washington Post, Robert A. Doll. I went immediately to the anagram server to see if Fred Piscop was playing with us, but I see Mr. Doll is his real name and that he has published at least one LA Times puzzle before. This was a very solid construction. The theme was a nice change in that, instead of altering a well-known phrase to get a new phrase, it took a standard phrase and redefined it, which I think takes an equal amount, if a different type, of cleverness. All the entries were redefined as types of social gatherings and every one rang true. ATOMIC BLAST, CEMENT MIXER and METEOR SHOWER were the best, I thought.

Sorry I was a little rushed with these as I need to head out soon. I'll get the not-available-until-it's-actually-Sunday puzzles blogged by tomorrow morning.

Donna S. Levin's LA Times puzzle puts us back in the St. Patrick's Day mood with a series of puns based on Irish place names. None of the jokes really grabbed me, CORK CURRICULUM was probably the best one. I couldn't quite get how to parse KERRY ON LUGGAGE or EIRE OF THE DOG to make sense with the clue. And PADDY O'FURNITURE is a really old joke that wasn't the freshest of entries. DUBLIN CUBE may not make sense unless you're familiar with Backgammon. I liked the grid and the non-theme fill a lot, though. This puzzle had the same 6/5/8 arrangement on the top and bottom as the NYT today. I was a huge fan of Batman when I was a kid and will always remember Cesar Romero as the original Joker. I don't remember Nancy and Sluggo quite as fondly, always thinking it was the low point of the comics page. I'm finally getting to the point where I'm not thrown by the phonetic clues like SOFT C or the SILENT A that was in David Quarfoot's NYT yesterday.

Patrick Jordan had a fairly easy Sunday Challenge today with lots of stacked 7's and a couple of nice 12-letter entries across the middle, LIQUID OXYGEN and FRONTIERSMAN. Walter PIDGEON was one of those generation separating entries that I like but I'm sure younger solvers hate. I also remember when "Sailing" became one of the most somnolent #1 songs ever.

I usually do the Sunday Newsday puzzle since it's the easiest of the Sundays and I like to practice solving at Monday velocity for a 21x21. The themes are always very straightforward and it's never the most memorable Sunday puzzle, but it's good training. Today was one of my better times ever for this puzzle. Fred Piscop is the constructor and the theme entries all have a first word that go with the "First of All" theme, like LEADING LADY, STAR WITNESS, HEADWAITER, etc.

Thanks for stopping by and now I'll hand the guest-blogging baton off to Dave Sullivan. It's spring break here and my son and I are off to Winter Park for a couple of days of skiing (well, boarding for him), so I'll see you all in the comments section in a couple of days.