(updated at 10:50 a.m. Wednesday)
On tonight's schedule, the NYT crossword by Peter A. Collins and the Sun puzzle by Patrick Blindauer. Neither of these constructors is known for lackluster work.
Starting with the NYT, one might exclaim, "What what? A rebus puzzle on a Wednesday? But that sort of thing rightfully belongs to Thursday." However, when the rebus is π (PI), it would be wrong to run it on 3/15 when 3/14(159...) is just a day off. I think I had a little advantage going into it, seeing the beyond-Wednesday applet times posted by other people—figured there had to be something twisty about it. The theme entries include the four long entries, the words that cross them at the PI, assorted shorter words with PI, and the non-rebused PI DAY, [March 14, to mathematicians]. We've got [PI]NUP [PI]CTURE crossing TAR[PI]T and HAP[PI]ER, POP[PI]NG [PI]LLS crossing POT[PI]E and OKA[PI], [PI]ZZA TOP[PI]NG crossing [PI]P[PI]N and [PI]NOT, and O[PI]NION [PI]ECE crossing O[PI]ATE and [PI]ETA, as well as Nevada's state tree, [PI]NON, UP[PI]NG crossing S[PI]NE, S[PI]RO crossing [PI]LOT, PU[PI]L crossing A[PI]AN, and [PI]CKLE crossing S[PI]N. Besides the heavy-duty rebus action skewing this puzzle in a Thursday direction, there are also relative obscurities like KURE, RETOP, and CONTEMNED. I'm not nuts about the artwork of Odilon REDON, but I've long been fond of that name. Also, I had no idea mathematicians were wont to call March 14 "pi day." Do they really? Anyway, I haven't seen Peter Collins' byline too often, but I'm glad when I do.
The hardest thing about Patrick Blindauer's Sun puzzle was making sense out of the title, "Good Start for Trick Ending." Near as I can figure, G = start of "good" and CK = "trick" ending, and the theme entries swap out a final CK for a G (as if you've got a stuffy nose when you say them aloud). My favorite of the three is NEW KID ON THE BLOG. Took me a long time to figure out [Pussy galore?], which is ACNED. (Say it with me: Eww!) Also in the "ick" category: TUNA MELT. So one "ick" subtheme, plus the Spanish geography subtheme with the city of MALAGA and the clubbing island of IBIZA. I like the subtle baseball of [Cards in play at once, e.g.] for NONET (the baseball Cardinals, they're still in St. Louis, aren't they?) Other good fill: BUNDT cake, ATM CARDS, and BIG DADDY (Jon Stewart was in that as well as in Wordplay, you know). The phrase EYED UP (meaning [Checked out], assessed) didn't resonate for me, so I Googled it; does it have a British slant to it? Or are there Americans without Commonwealth connections who use the phrase? Just curious.
The theme in Thomas Schier's CrosSynergy puzzle includes four 15-letter entries with made-up phrases consisting of words that can follow fire: e.g., [Siren irritates prison head?] is ALARM BUGS WARDEN, as in fire alarm, firebugs, and fire warden.
Dan Naddor's LA Times puzzle has five phrases all clued by [Drive]. Nice structure—the central theme entry intersects the two vertical ones, and a pair of 10-letter words crossing that central entry also connect it to the other two horizontal theme entries.
March 13, 2007