Peter Collins doesn't appear to be that prolific a constructor (this is his tenth puzzle this year), but when he does make a crossword, it's an event. Why? Because he digs the twisty bends. He made one puzzle with diagonal cardinal directions, another with mathematical equations whose answers were clue numbers, and now this New York Times puzzle in which each entry...well, let the constructor tell you himself. EVERY ENTRY THAT'S / IN THE GRID HAS THE / SAME FIRST LETTER / AS THE ENTRY'S CLUE. That's 60 theme squares right there, plus every single answer and clue follows the rule laid out in those 60 squares. Even the clues for the parts of the explanation begin with [Explanation], [...including this...], [...still more...], and [...and, finally]. Once you figure out that's what's going on, you've got a little help with the rest of the answers. When I had **STLE ata 49-Across, I thought of NESTLE and HUSTLE before I looked over for the clue—[Busyness] starts with B, so it had to be BUSTLE. IOTA and MOTE are roughly synonymous, but have to have different clues: [Insignificant amount] and [Minute bit]. I'd never heard of the [Norse goddess married to Balder]—Mrs. Dash?—but apparently she is NANNA. The old-school crossword coal-mine entrance ADIT shows up here, clued as [Access for a collier]. I don't know that I'd want to do another crossword with this particular gimmick, but as a one-off, it's all right.
Patrick Blindauer's New York Sun crossword, "VW Bug," hints at the theme—adjacent Ws are presented as VV and VV, with the Vs pulling regular duty in the Down answers that cross the themers. Slow-witted is displayed as SLOVVVVITTED; Snow White, SNOVVVVHITE; glow-worms, GLOVVVVORMS; and Lew Wallace, LEVVVVALLACE. Goofy twist, but fun. Noteworthy clues: the [Manchester United manager Ferguson]'s first name is ALEX. Never heard of him. ASHE isn't Arthur here, but [American Revolution general John]. [Trap beneath the water's surface] is, fortunately, not a verb, but rather a noun (EELPOT).[Flash-y?] is the clue for FAST—as in The Flash. [Bungstarter] is certainly not a common word—just over a thousand Google hits—but it's a type of mallet. (One Google citation: a 1932 Time magazine article.) It sounds vaguely obscene. [Creator of Captain Underpants] is DAV PILKEY—and yes, my son has a couple of his books. The clue for AVAST is [Sea prompt?]—it has been many a year since I saw a C: prompt, but my husband claims to tussle with it every day at the software-testing mines.
Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy puzzle offers up a joke from the late Mitch Hedberg. Hedberg was funny—case in point, this Letterman appearance, five minutes of comedy gold. Or this five-minute standup routine. Or this clip—I especially enjoyed the bit about club sandwiches and the formation of that club.
The theme in Don Gagliardo's LA Times crossword is WHITE CAPS—three theme entries are things that have whitecaps or white caps. The middle Down entry seems a little iffy: RUN LAST is [What relay anchors do], a relay anchor being the member of a relay foursome who runs last and has the best shot of making up any extra distance. But is RUN LAST an "in the language" phrase? I dunno. I also take issue with the clue, [Like a frump], used for SCHLEPPY. This page says schleppy means (among other things) having to do with "a clumsy, stupid or incompetent person." A frump, on the other hand, is more schlubby than schleppy—although frump (Middle Dutch etymology, not Yiddish) does usually seem to apply to women, and schlubby seems more for out-of-shape men.
December 19, 2007