(updated at 9 a.m. Monday)
The Times crossword is on a roll. John Farmer's Saturday killer and Craig Kasper's elegant Sunday puzzle have been dropped into my virtual folder of noteworthy puzzles, and Richard Chisholm's Monday puzzle joins them. I've got a decided preference for difficult or gimmicky crosswords, but occasionally an early-week puzzle stands out. Generally what impresses me in a Monday or Tuesday puzzle is a clever or funny theme, good fill, and lack of entertainers whose heyday was 50 or more years ago.
So what did I like about Chisholm's crossword? When I got to the bottom of the grid, I saw that the word POT could precede the first words of the four long entries. Not typically the most exciting type of theme, but the POT connection made for such a lively batch of words and phrases. BELLY DANCER was visually evocative, and so is [POT] BELLY. I can see them now, the pot-bellied people bellying up to the table of casseroles at the [POT] LUCK dinner. The [POT]HEAD is loading up his plate to tend to the munchies, and the vegetarians are averting their eyes from the [POT] ROAST and looking for some hummus. The longish Down entries also sparkle: PREACHY sits opposite the EVIL ONE, and the BEEFCAKE does not CRY UNCLE. Nice and easy, no obscurities, and lots of fun. (Plus it has AMY near the middle.)
And I love today's Sun crossword, "Five of a Kind," by Ogden Porter/Peter Gordon. Anagram themes can be fun, and here, one vertical 10-letter answer crosses its four anagrams. The word ANAGRAM itself is also in the grid. The theme wasn't the fun part, though—it was the inclusion of more than 20 7- or 8-letter entries in the fill, zippy words and phrases with entertaining clues. Tops in fill: NETFLIX, HOT PANTS, CREAM PIE, EL NORTE (which I saw in college), PALME D'OR, and Ronald McDonald's purple pal, GRIMACE. Randy-sounding clues included [Takes up all the space in bed] for SPRAWLS, [Problem that some people have in bed] for APNEA, [Nighttime deposit acceptor] for ATM, [Burning] for ON FIRE (with passion!), [Expressing delight] for AAHING, and what the hell, let's include [Lying facedown] for PRONE. In addition to letting my mind go right in the gutter, I learned a new (to me) baseball name, JAE Seo, a Korean pitcher for the Devil Rays.
In Will Johnston's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Pest in Show," four long theme entries contain embedded bugs (as in STIFLE A YAWN). Will really needs to call an exterminator, because these bugs are also lurking in each corner of the grid, clued as [Pest seen in 52-Across], for example. I like the extra fillip of theme action.
March 18, 2007