Well, I had to open up an Across Lite copy of the New York Times crossword to find the byline, which was covered up by the "it's Thursday, but we don't think you're smart enough to figure out the theme" explanation: Circled letters refer to phrases that start with "break." Paula Gamache has amassed seven theme phrases, 7 to 9 letters apiece, that "break" a word that follows break. The phrase WITS' END breaks wind, as it were. (Farting! In the NYT crossword!) EVIL QUEEN breaks even, and the other theme phrases break ranks, bread, free, open, and apart. Excellent theme in that each of the "break ___" phrases are all absolutely in-the-language, and the phrases that break the "___" words are sensational. OPIUM DEN! RATFINKS! BRAIN-DEAD! Moving outside the theme, we are treated to YAO MING, NAPSTER, POMPEII (in the same puzzle as LAVA!), and some Scrabbly short answers. Favorite clues: [The hots] for LUST; [Grill] for QUIZ; ["Ich ___ dich" (German words of endearment)] for LIEBE (the phrase means "I love you"); [Satyric looks] for LEERS (not satiric); ["Well, ___!"] for LADIDA; and [Did a number] for SANG. I don't think I'd ever seen ADELE clued as [___ Hugo, 1975 Isabelle Adjani role based on a real-life story]—that's The Story of Adele H., which is semi-familiar. I have probably heard of ANDY [Granatelli of auto racing], but my antipathy for "motor sports" obliterated him and turned him into an EDDY at first.
Last night, I received an e-mail that said, "Lee Glickstein has a joy of a puzzle this Thursday in the Sun!" The title of Lee's New York Sun puzzle is "The Question," and the titular question is TO BE OR NOT TO BE. The first two theme entries add a B to the beginning of each part, such that outlasts and landlubber become pugilistic BOUT BLASTS and [Unseasoned whale fat?], BLAND BLUBBER. (Ick!) The second pair opt for "not to B": bread and butter and bad to the bone turn into READ AND UTTER and [Classified seeking a soulmate?], AD TO THE ONE. (My personal favorites are the BLUBBER and AD ones.) Favorite clues: [Got high] for ROSE (and I totally didn't read that as "get stoned" while I was doing the puzzle]; [Paper mates?] for an ITEM mentioned in a tabloid; [Dec. tenths] for YRS (decade, not December); and [Sluggish] for TORPID (love both words!). DUENNAS is a great word; it means [Spanish chaperones], with assorted nuances in various definitions.
Answers like KALAMAZOO and PEPE LE PEW are welcome in the crossword regardless of the clue (well, unless the clue lauds Pepe for his sexual-harassing ways).
Barry Silk's LA Times crossword features five theme entries that begin with words that can precede the final Across answer, CASE. FEDERAL LAND's a little dull, but the other theme entries are livelier, and all five yield lively "___ case" phrases. Basket case! Closet case! Nut case! Federal case! Hard case!
Ray Hamel's CrosSynergy crossword, "The Buck Stops Here," has three phrases that begin with words that can follow buck (buck NAKED, buck SERGEANT, Buck OWENS) and...one phrase that's a mystery to me. I know what a FEVER PITCH is, but what the heck is buck fever? Tapping into Google...let's see: "Nervous excitement felt by a novice hunter at the first sight of game"? Ew. How unpleasant. Word Spy points out the heart attacks that may result, and cites a Sports Illustrated article entitled "Bambi's Revenge." Indeed.
January 30, 2008