(post updated at 9 a.m. Thursday)
Vexing, most vexing. Two different puzzles with themes that left me feeling befuddled. And on this, the eve of my half birthday! (Not to mention Valentine's Day.) What Thursday things smacked me around a bit? Well, totally different things in the NYT and Sun crosswords.
In the Sun, it was the fact that Patrick Jordan's three theme entries ending with the SAME DIFFERENCE anagrams of "same" all occupied shadowy corners of the unknown. I've never heard of a FRENCH SEAM, I didn't know Lamour had a bestseller as recently as 1987, much less its title (THE HAUNTED MESA), and the [Early American Federalist leader] FISHER AMES. I Googled that last guy, and apparently he's become the poster child for Bible-based education and recently had a "Christian distance learning university" named after him.
The NYT crossword by Elizabeth Rehfeld was knotty, too. Felt like it took me forever to make sense out of the theme entries. Actually, I only managed to correctly parse one of the four during the solving process. As I see it, [Tantrum expected from a money player] is a PRO FIT that's FORECAST; [Preventive maintenance on a water barrier?] is DAM AGE CONTROL; [Beachgoer wearing bug spray?] has OFF (the bug spray) ON A TAN GENT; and [Bit of mischief that won't be noticed for years] is LONG-TERM IMP ACT. Favorite entries/clues: HIS OLD SELF, [Knots] for ENIGMAS, [On the 31st of February] for NEVER, and ["Warmer" or "colder"] for HINT.
Martin Ashwood-Smith's anagram theme in the CrosSynergy puzzle turned out to be more accessible than the Sun's—more anagramming action, less trivia. (Not that I want to talk trash about trivia. I like it, honest!) I hadn't known that this particular landmark had two apt anagrams.
John Underwood's LA Times puzzle takes four phrases that fit the R__ING ___ template and redefines them by reading the second word as a noted person's last name. It took me awhile to recognize what was going on because I plugged in LANO for [Wool: Pref.] (thinking of lanolin) rather than LANI (the start of, say, laniferous). (Aside: Did you know actress Lani O'Grady of Eight is Enough died five years ago? Second aside: Lani Guinier has taught at Harvard Law since 1998.) Most misleading clue in this puzzle: [Cans or jugs], 6 letters.
February 14, 2007