(post updated at 9:15 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. Tuesday)
The Tuesday NYT crossword by Jonathan Gersch (any relation to constructor Charles Gersch? And is this his debut?) (Yes, it's his NYT debut—though he's previously been published in the NY Sun—and he's Charles's son.) boasts 79 symmetrical theme squares, plus 9-Down (without a mate across the grid) adds another 4 squares. Like yesterday's NYT, it's also got more than the usual number of black squares (44 here), and I think the math works out so that 45% of the white squares are thematic. That sounds like a lot to me. The theme is an 80th birthday tribute to SIDNEY POITIER, with entries including the title of his first autobiographical book (it's his new second autobiography that's the latest Oprah Book Club selection), three notable movies and a Broadway play he starred in, plus his childhood home of CAT Island in the Bahamas, his SAG award, and his work for UNESCO. If that's not impressive enough, check out the Wikipedia article about him. Speaking of impressive, I liked this puzzle because of the theme density and the elegance of the theme's execution and its subject, plus fill like NEOCON, MURMUR, and hoity-TOITY.
There are plenty of pop-culture clues in Harvey Estes' CrosSynergy puzzle, which I like. Alas, some of them are from the '50s and '60s, which is before my time—those are the names I learned from crosswords. The more recent pop culture adds more of a curry zing—and granted, not everyone likes curry, but I do.
I love the theme in Joy C. Frank's LA Times puzzle! [Disappointing dig finds?] are MODERN ARTICLES, [Beantown frozen treats?] are BOSTON POPSICLES, and [Work spaces for inventor Erno?] are RUBIK'S CUBICLES. Can you picture an office laid out in Rubik's cubicle fashion?
Patrick Berry's Sun puzzle is also dense with pop-culture clues, given that the nifty theme features seven thespians with a particular distinction, plus 7- and 9-letter answers that tie them together. Favorite clues: [Big-screen computer?] for HAL, [Cracker brand] for both RY-KRISP (wow, did that partial answer look strange when it was RYK****) and HI-HO, [Key mistake?] for TYPO (is that question mark crucial?), and [Saying what you don't mean, possibly] for SARCASM. I also love the word SKITTERS.
Ben Tausig is this week's constructor for the Onion A.V. Club puzzle, which seemed to be clued a little on the hard side as far as Onion puzzles go. The theme completely escaped me. If it escapes you, too, try putting them in this order: 65-Across, 23-Across, 17-Across, 41-Across, and 52-Across. If that doesn't help, click here.
Ben's Ink Well/Chicago Reader crossword, "Measure for Measure," focuses on pronounced-sorta-like puns on units of measure. Three of the five are connected by TOM ARNOLD, naturally enough, because his acting has always demonstrated a measured approach. [/sarcasm] At last, I have found a practical use for my dad's having introduced me to firearms: [German arms maker] is MAUSER. I may have even fired a Mauser in my youth.
February 19, 2007