(updated at 8:20 a.m. Thursday)
The constructor of the Thursday New York Times puzzle, Joe Krozel, had another NYT puzzle last year, in which he included five 15-letter movie titles. This one has a phenomenal 106 theme squares! Granted, the theme entries are tied together via gimmick and not semantically, but still, 106 is a huge number! The gimmick is that every Across entry starting at the left edge of the grid is a continuation of the Across entry at the right edge. Thus, 15- and 13-Across together are ALSO / RAN, and 36- and 34-Across are ROBERT / E. LEE. The crossing fill one the left and right is not always great (e.g., OSSE and RESEE), but can you imagine the difficulty of squeezing in 13 pairs of phrasal entries that can be split this way and fit into a symmetrical layout? Good gravy. I didn't notice until after solving that the puzzle lacks the standard all-over interlock—the left and right halves are divided by that top-to-bottom snake of black squares. I liked this puzzle, but I'm sure the rule-breaking and the gimmick itself will have their detractors. I also liked the longer vertical entries in the grid's midsection(s)—LIP-SYNC, ON CREDIT (speaking of credit: I cannot hear about the Optimus Prime character from Transformers without thinking it sounds like a credit card. "Bad credit or no credit? You may qualify for Optimus Prime!"), and OPEN ARMS (alas, not clued with the Journey song).
The New York Sun Themeless Thursday puzzle by Jeffrey Harris was not too hard for a themeless. Plenty of Scrabbly fill, anchored by JOHNNY KNOXVILLE of Jackass infamy. Plenty of world geography, Africa edition: GHANA crossing RWANDAN; ASMARA, the capital of Eritrea; and the Egyptian setting for AIDA, [Memphis belle?]. Pop culture lesson: I didn't know that NENA's real name was Gabriele Kerner, but the Germanic name and "one-hit wonder" designation fairly shouted "99 Luftballons" and Nena. Geek alert: [Data representation expert?] is SPINER, as in Brent Spiner, the actor who played Data on that Star Trek spinoff. I never, ever heard of the thermodynamics term ENTHALPY, and the clue, [It's symbolized by an H], seems to serve no purpose other than to tempt solvers to think, "Could it be that easy?" and put in HYDROGEN. Including the word thermodynamic in the clue would at least serve an educational purpose. Awful clue for ROADKILL: [Animal that's tired right before dying?]. Picturing tire tracks on a dead animal fails the Sunday morning breakfast test. Then there's APRIL clued as [Roger's dead girlfriend in "Rent"]. I've never seen the show, but this synopsis tells me April committed suicide after learning she was HIV-positive from dirty needles. Cheerful! And the SKIN's clued as [Partner of bones]—"skin and bones" can also be depressing. At least the ATRIAL septal defect can be repaired surgically...
If U have a partcular fondness for the letter U, U won't want to miss David Kahn's LA Times puzzle.
July 25, 2007