NYT 2:40 (the applet didn't load until 23 seconds had ticked away)
The New York Times puzzle by Jeff Armstrong is jam-packed with theme entries—eight 8- to 10-letter phrases in which each word can separately follow AIR (36-Across). For example, BASEBALL splits off to make an air base and an air ball, and SHOWTIME yields an air show and airtime. The fill is excellent given the limitations posed by including 69 squares of thematic content—SPLASH, HOLY COW, and DOTCOM are fairly lively, and there are no ugly or awkward spots, no overreliance on proper names or abbreviations, no ARIA, ALOE, ERIE, ERA, OLEO, ERE, OREO, ANTE, or ORE. Was anyone else tempted to AIR out the 7-letter fill answers, TEE SHOT and HOLY COW? I don't know what an air cow would be, exactly, but I'm intrigued. (P.S. Congrats on your NYT debut, Jeff!)
The baseball season is kicking off (so to speak), and Alan Arbesfeld's New York Sun crossword, "Getting to Second Base," offers a primer in baseball terminology. Actually, it doesn't educate so much as assume you know the terms—which I don't, but that didn't get in the way of solving. It just made me not grasp all of the theme. LEADING ROLES is a theme entry because of the take a lead sense of the word, I think. And tagging isn't just about getting tagged out (who knew?). SLIDING (SCALE), STEALING (AWAY), WALK, and SAFE were much more familiar to me. Favorite answers/clues: Britney's ex K-FED (Kevin Federline), ANAGRAM clued as [Trenchcoats, to technocrats], and BAGGIES.
Four daft synonyms take center stage in Randall Hartman's CrosSynergy crossword, "Mad About You," with the Across theme entries ending with BATS and NUTS and the Downs beginning with CRAZY and CUCKOO. In the fill, the PREAMBLE is clued as ["We the people" site]; here's the Schoolhouse Rock song that has taught so many 8th graders what they needed to know for their civics test. Plenty of short geography answers today—the Philippine island of LUZON beside the Indonesian island BALI; the African country TOGO and the Caribbean nation HAITI; two cities, LIMA, Peru, and ORAN, Algeria; and UNION clued as a word in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Shall we change the puzzle's title to "Mad About World Geography"?
Joy Frank's LA Times crossword has a "clever" theme—each theme entry begins with a synonym of that word (e.g. SHARP CURVE, QUICK BREAD). Just for kicks, the fill includes RED SQUARE, and I'm trying to think of a theme that would include RED SQUARE among other colored shapes. BLUE CROSS, YELLOW STAR, and...ORANGE RHOMBUS? No, that's too long, and too nonexistent.
March 30, 2008