(post updated at 9:30 a.m. Thursday)
I think the Thursday NYT marks a debut (within that paper, at least) for constructor Steven E. Atwood, who makes a splash with (if I counted right) 94 theme squares, 76 of them in symmetrical entries. Congratulations on both feats! The theme involves 16 entries with either [Mean] or [Means] for the clue, meaning that solvers pondered what else meant "mean(s)." Figuring them all out was no mean task. In fact, solvers who struggled with this one might well think that the constructor was in a mean mood when he pulled this together. For me, the main joy in a crossword comes from the clues, so this solving experience wasn't as fun as many Thursday puzzles. A worthy challenge, though, calling on a different hunk of brain.
The Sun crossword is Kelsey Blakley's "Triple Bonds." The three theme entries each consist of three words where AB, BC, and AC are all compound words or phrases. Thus, [Disloyal person with a pastry who's wearing a chesterfield?] is TURNOVERCOAT, with TURNOVER, OVERCOAT, and TURNCOAT. It's groovy that she found three solid examples of this. I'm sure there are many others or varying lengths, but my mind isn't generating any right now. Seeing LIL clued as [Crunk pioneer ___ Jon] makes me wonder: What would it look like if Lil Jon got spinach caught in his metallically adorned front teeth? I'll bet he never orders salad when he goes out to eat.
The theme in Raymond Hamel's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Literary Lockstep," eluded me for a while. Eventually I looked at the clues again—the three authors all wrote works with "March" in the title. Outside of the theme, ED NORTON and LIQUOR UP made a nice pair, as did the anatomical AXILLA crossing PLEURA. (I like medical terminology. So sue me.)
Stella Daily and Bruce Venzke's LA Times puzzle could also appear around Aprill Fool's Day, what with its practical jokes theme. Too bad there wasn't room for the 9-letter JOY BUZZER, but the 7-letter GEN X'ERS in the middle was a nice substitute.
February 28, 2007