Have I got any QUIBBLES ([Nitpicking]) with Chuck Deodene's New York Times puzzle? Not really. Here's what I liked: CADBURY, the [Creme Egg maker], even though those taste icky. A football conference clue for AFC that starts with a misleadingly mandatory capital letter, [Bills are in it: Abbr.]. SYLLABI, [First-class handouts?], because who doesn't like non-S plurals in a themeless puzzle? [Poses in a studio?] are YOGA. The [Town on the Long Island Rail Road] for SYOSSET, because Long Island's got so many fun town names that pop up in NYC-based crosswords. I like [Colloquial] and IDIOMATIC content in crosswords, so that's an apt pairing. [Logic's counterpart] is SENTIMENT, and that one kept me guessing. For [Trunk accumulation], I was picturing the heaps of stuff that pile up in a car trunk rather than TREE RINGS. There's a fresh clue for TAI, [Mount ___, sacred Chinese site] (read about Mount Tai if you like China, geography, or ancient temples). [Green stinger] sounds like it has to do with, I dunno, the Green Hornet—but it's simply the stinging NETTLE that's intended. There's a ROAD TEST that's a [Cavalier evaluation?]—referring to the Chevy Cavalier. (Another hidden-capital-letter mislead—I like those clues!) The fact that [Seeing the sites] had sites rather than sights didn't shout ONLINE at me—I like that clue. There's an occupational vibe here, too, with ENGINEER (clued as the verb, though: [Bring about with some effort]), STEERSMAN, a corporate RAIDER, an IRONER (bleh), a REP ([Mouthpiece]), Mafia DONS ([Underbosses' bosses]), a cattle RUSTLER ([Herd-thinning menace?]), a STEERSMAN ([One at the helm]), and some ASSTS to help them all.
Aw, drat. Across Lite used to open almost everything with the timer automatically starting, and when I opened the Friday New York Sun "Weekend Warrior" by Mark Diehl, I didn't notice that the timer was off. No idea how long it took me—sevenish minutes, maybe? There were plenty of things that didn't come easily. With a few crossings, tasty AGLIO E OLIO (garlic and olive oil) popped in. That and the hard-to-get USB PORT were my favorite entries. My son's favorite would have to be the [Mustang rival], CAMARO—he's a fan of muscle cars. (He also likes Mack trucks, but MACK is clued with the contemporary slang, [Hit (on)].) (Punctuation party!) Strangest-looking answer: DOAJOBON, or DO A JOB ON. FONTANA is the [City that's home to the California Speedway]? Let us study up on this town: The Wikipedia entry says the Hells Angels hail from there originally, toon Speed Racer was from Fontana, and Whitman Mayo, Grady on Sanford and Son, lived there as an adult.
Matt Jones's Jonesin' puzzle is called "The Second Half," and the second half of each theme entry's repeated. Thus, a DARWIN WIN, a KIDMAN MAN, and so on. Fresh fill—REDIP (clued as [DO a party no-no at the snack table], which puts me in mind of the Seinfeld "double-dipper" episode even if it looks like a roll-your-own word) crossing Michael Jackson's I'M BAD; Ian MCKELLEN; MUDFLAPS; SUBARU and IRABU; "WORD UP"; and a tasty SKOR bar. And I always welcome a reference to early Saturday Night Live, here represented by Father GUIDO Sarducci. And who doesn't like a little ARSE? That's [___ over teakettle (upside-down, to Brits)].
Harvey Estes' Wall Street Journal crossword is called "Queue & A," and each queue of letters in a theme entry is followed by an A. The first one is BEVERLY HILLS COPA, and that is all the justification I need to once again link to this "Copacabana" video that plays with words and graphics to entertaining effect. Among the other six theme entries, I like the [Concluding words from a Samos temple attendee?] best: AND I LOVE HERA. This whole puzzle was fun—good fill, clues that are light and fun but not too easy.
Martin Ashwood-Smith's Monday-easy CrosSynergy puzzle, "Familiar Threesome," has a TOM, DICK, and HARRY. Despite the title, there is no implication that Messrs. Stoppard, Van Patten, and Truman are engaged in a ménage à trois.
Alan Olschwang's 11/2 Chronicle of Higher Education puzzle, "Wondrous Sites," quizzes the solver on the sites of the Seven Wonders of the World—a smart little trivia test. But just knowing this classical knowledge won't get you through the puzzle—there's also [Pop singer Basil] for TONI (Toni Basil had that '80s one-hit wonder, "Mickey," with the insane cheerleading music video) and ["Invincible" singer Pat] for BENATAR (I preferred her song, "Heartbreaker"—go ahead, go rock out for a minute with that one).
Paul Guttormsson's LA Times puzzle features a quip: YOU CAN PUSH / THE ENVELOPE / BUT IT / WILL STILL BE / STATIONERY. Hmm. Not quite funny, nor educational, nor inspirational. My appetite for quote/quip themes is sated by about three zippy ones a year—the rest I could do without.
November 15, 2007