Bob Peoples is one of the constructors whose themeless creations I find the most challenging, and his Saturday NYT bears that out. Plenty of uncommon fill, meaning solvers are less likely to have their limbic brain bits think of those answers. Plenty of entries with alternatives that fit the same space. Plenty of devious clues. Mix 'em all together and what do you get? I GOT THE SHAFT. The trickiest clues, IMO (clued as ["I think," succinctly]), were: [Top in a certain contest] for WET T-SHIRT (raise your hand if you thought "top" was a verb and tried to get OUT-something to work); [Task to focus on] for EYE EXAM; [Glen Gray's "Casa ___ Stomp"] for LOMA; [It has a cap in the kitchen] for MOREL mushroom; [Oppressive measure that helped spark the French Revolution] for SALT TAX (I'm not up on my French history); [Artist on the cover of a 1969 Life magazine] for PETER MAX; and [One of the five major circles of latitude] for ANTARCTIC. Oddball fill included TELEG (abbrev. for telegram or telegraphy, presumably, clued as [Wire: Abbr.]); EXIM ([___ Bank, U.S. loan guarantor]); and BRA PADS ([Ones doing push-ups?]). [Bothered] set a trap; the answer's IN A STIR, but IN A SNIT and IN A STEW also fit (I was leaning toward the SNIT). I liked GO OFFLINE, SMIRCH, the WAR ROOM, and I HEAR YA. And here's a sampling of paintings by Berthe MORISOT, whose name aptly crosses the French phrase, BONS AMIS.
Daniel Stark's Newsday Saturday Stumper was markedly easier than the NYT. The LA Times puzzle by Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke has a fun mini-theme (YO ADRIAN and STALLONE), six 15-letter entries (five of which I really liked), which helped ease the challenge level. Paula Gamache turns the letter A into gold in her CrosSynergy puzzle, "The Midas Touch."
February 10, 2007