Edward Sessa's got a kicky theme in his New York Times crossword. The theme clues for four 15-letter entries are [INK], [IN], [I], and [ ]. The first is CEPHALOPOD SPRAY; next, a SOCIAL ADVANTAGE; then a PERSONAL PRONOUN; and finally, DISAPPEARING INK. It's cute—sort of like those word pyramids (have they got a name?) in which one letter is removed at each step, only this one goes one step further and thereby circles back to the beginning. I got mildly mucked up early on—3-Down, [Bonehead], starting with DO...hmm, is it DODO or DOLT? Neither—it's DOPE. (With that sort of clue, it's more likely to be DODO or DOLT, statistically.) Toughest words lurking within: ANOXIA [(It) may cause a coma], not to mention death; MARL is a [Clayey sediment]; [Ptolemy's lighthouse locale] is PHAROS; the [Dispatch boat] beloved in crosswords is the AVISO; and [Coral producer] is a POLYP (polyps: they're not just for intestines and noses any more!). [No-brainer?] seems slightly cruel as a clue for MORON, though.
Lee Glickstein's New York Sun puzzle, "Name Changes," takes three phrases in which a word is duplicated and flips one of the dupes into a surname. Shaw's Man and Superman becomes Horace MANN AND SUPERMAN; Gabriel Byrne with that Irish accent takes part in BURN BABY BYRNE (just a mild sunburn); and a heart-to-heart talk is a (Gary) HART-TO-HEART (the band) TALK. (Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers' Hart to Hart doesn't enter into the equation.) Plenty of good clues and fill, but it's almost midnight (condo meeting and a phone call dislodged puzzle time) and I'm too tired to make judgments about which ones I liked now.
Alan Olschwang's LA Times crossword places MUSIC and GENRE in symmetrical spots to explain that the theme entries begin with just that—ROCKET FUEL, PUNKY BREWSTER (['80s title sitcom role for Soleil Moon Frye], and a show I never saw), RAPID RESPONSE, and POPPY SEEDS all are longer words with contemporary music genres at their starts. A SPONGE may be used as a [Counter cleaner], but if that sponge has already picked up bacteria from one spot in the kitchen, it'll be spreading it all over the counter. (Wash those sponges in the washer or dishwasher and let them dry thoroughly to kill germs. This has been your public service announcement for 2008.) The POLYP returns, again clued as a [Coral component]; sea anemones, like that pictured at right, are also polyps and are more fun to look at since their tentacles move.
Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy crossword, "La-La Land," has five two-word phrases in which both words start with LA. In the central entry, in fact, the first word is LA: L.A. LAKER. I like a LABOR LAWYER (one lives two doors down from me) and deep blue LAPIS LAZULI, but LAST LAUGHS in the plural seems off, and the [Cape Canaveral concern] LATE LAUNCH feels like it's not a stand-alone concept. Nice touch: placing the full names of LENA OLIN and TERI GARR across from each other. Both actors' first and last names appear separately in cameo roles as 4-letter fill in a zillion crosswords, and it's lovely to have them both take larger supporting roles here.
April 15, 2008