Hmm, I need to go splash around in the pool of crosswordese poetry and choose a winner tonight. I anticipate that it'll be tough to choose just one winner, so there'll probably be multiple honorable mentions.
The Sunday New York Times crossword by Bill Zais is called "Reverse English," and he's packed a dozen theme entries (9 to 11 letters apiece) into the grid, occupying six full rows. Each theme entry follows the "[word]'s [opposite of word]" structure. For example, [Comeback of a Japanese game] is GO'S RETURN, [Privilege of liberals?] is LEFT'S RIGHT, and [The real scoop about lipids?] is FAT'S SKINNY. (Those three were my favorites.) I think the gettability of that structure made the theme entries mighty easy to figure out, and then the overall fill and clues weren't as tough as usual, either.
The fill contains some good longer entries: there's UTOPIANISM, clued nonintuitively as [Communist's belief], and SWEETIE PIE ([Darlin']), and the [Child-raiser's cry?] for UPSY DAISY. I'd have preferred a non-question-marked clue for UPSY-DAISY, given its length and the question-marking of all the theme clues, just for maximum clarity, but I'm glad to have UPSY-DAISY in the puzzle.
Favorite clues: [Puzzle page favorite] for REBUS; [Portion of a drag queen's wardrobe] for feather BOAS (all right, fess up—how many of you went straight for BRAS?); [Bumptious] for PUSHY and [Rambunctious] for ROWDY; [Missy Elliott's "___ What I'm Talkin' About"] for DAT'S (and what's the "dat" in question? Hot sex); ["Our Gang" affirmative] for OTAY; [Moliere's Harpagon, e.g.] for MISER; [Patriot Putnam of the American Revolution] for RUFUS (because I think I blogged about a similar clue a couple years ago, when I'd never heard of the guy, and because I dig the name Rufus—what, no love for Rufus Sewell of Cold Comfort Farm?); [Literally, "fish tooth"] for PIRANHA (etymology: "via Portuguese from Tupi"); ["Happy Days" character] for Ralph MALPH ('70s pop culture fun!); [It's pitched] for WOO; [Sully] for SMIRCH; [Perfecto, e.g.] for CIGAR (it's a cigar with a particular shape, fat in the middle and tapered at the ends); and ["The Lay of the Host of ___" (old Russian epic poem)] for IGOR (wow, that's a long way to travel for good ol' IGOR).
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer puzzle, "The Doctor Is In," puns with 10 different real or fictional or commercial doctors (spanning 11 entries). I suspect it was almost as easy as the NYT crossword, but I did the NYT with my old keyboard (which I'm having trouble letting go of) and Merl's with the wireless keyboard (which I'm still not used to—see first part of sentence—and have to look down at much more often while typing). Anyway, it's a classic Merl puzzle—lots of theme entries, heavy-duty punning action, and bold stacking of some theme entries (we see relatively little stacking of theme entries—constructors who can pull that off are perhaps the most adroit ones).
Henry Hook's online Boston Globe crossword is called "Happy Holidays!" and it's not curmudgeonly at all. The theme entries are all things associated with holidays—a HEART-SHAPED BOX OF CANDY, FIREWORKS DISPLAY, MACY'S PARADE, etc. Aw, happy times!
Okay, maybe I'm getting accustomed to this keyboard right this very morning, because the second and third crosswords have gone faster than Merl's. Randall Hartman's Washington Post puzzle, "All About Eve," splits EVE into E and VE in eight theme entries, such as EDDIE VEDDER and Edward Lear's NONSENSE VERSE. Fairly easy puzzle with no real trouble spots.
I think I enjoyed Randolph Ross's syndicated LA Times crossword, "Thinking Inside the Box," the most of today's Sunday-sized puzzles. (I haven't done the themeless CrosSynergy puzzle yet—will tend to it after delivering the fellas to the Chicago Auto Show.) Each of eight theme entries has an embedded IDEA, which isn't a particularly fun theme or anything, but I liked the puzzle's gestalt. I didn't care for the clue for ATOI—instead of going French, it's [First nine in a series], as in the letters from A TO I. Plenty of lively fill—ALAN LADD, PLATEAUS, NATIVE SON, I LOVE LA.
Will Johnston's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" is super-easy, not so much because the clues are simple but because the answers tended to be clear-cut with a couple crossings. Even if [Luxor's land] doesn't instantly shout EGYPT to you, what other lands start with EG? The fill was fresh and light—GOOGLE and TRAIL MIX, FRISBEES and LIBERACE, NOOGIE and TIE-DYE, SERENDIP ([Old name for Sri Lanka]—older than Ceylon or just Persian?) and "OLÉ, OLÉ."
February 09, 2008