How Barry Silk ruined my weekend, and why I’m glad about it

Puzzle Master Barry Silk
Puzzle Master Barry Silk

The NYT crossword puzzle is a daily treat for me. I particularly enjoy the puzzles published later in the week, as the difficulty level of the puzzle increases from Monday through Saturday.

Well, this Saturday puzzle master Barry Silk got me but good. His pangram of Scrabbly words, combined with diabolical cluing and the editorial genius of Will Shortz, left me wrestling with this puzzle from Saturday afternoon until Tuesday evening, when I finally called it quits and starting Googling. I do not allow myself to Google until I have already conceded defeat; I do not consider a puzzle completed correctly if I have to use any outside resource to do it. Therefore, despite three nights of lousy sleep, I still have to mark Saturday’s puzzle as a failure in my records. (Yes, I do keep records.)

Yet, I bear Mr. Silk no ill will. It’s not his fault that English is such a rich language that the same clue can yield sixteen different answers. I salute him for his ability to manipulate the language to create these challenging word games.

Crossword puzzles – at least the excellent ones constructed by Mr. Silk and others of his caliber – offer a scrumptious blend of vocabulary, pop culture, history, literature, current events, trivia and wordplay that I have never discovered in any other language’s word games. Even when foreign words are present in a crossword, they are often among the easiest to solve. In Saturday’s puzzle, I was able to get MAHARANI (60A) within the first five minutes, yet MEN (41A) eluded me until the very end. Isn’t that sick?!

Just take a look at my notes in the puzzle solution below. All of the words I wrote down would be valid answers for the clues given, yet incredibly only one of them ended up being correct (7D: ZONKED). That’s amazing! Kudos to Barry and all the others who torture me with their puzzles. Keep ’em coming, folks.


Barry Silk’s sadistic Saturday puzzle. The parts highlighted in yellow are the ones I couldn’t solve without outside references. I am ashamed that I couldn’t get JERUSALEM. The rest…well, would you have gotten them?