Both the New York Times and New York Sun crosswords have themes that take some work to explain. Feel free to offer clarifications in the comments if you feel I've missed or mangled something.
Tim Wescott's New York Times puzzle obliquely signals the theme in the clue for HINT at 65-Across: ["The first word of the answer to each of the six starred clues describes the number of that clue," e.g.]. The first word in each of these starred clues is a mathematical term describing certain kinds of numbers, and the clue numbers themselves are examples of those kinds of numbers. Like so:
Favorite non-theme stuff: ["Rhoda" and "Frasier"] for television SPINOFFS; SYSTOLE, or [Part of a heartbeat], diastole being the other part (yay, medical terminology!); [Jawbone of ___ (biblical weapon)] for AN ASS (the "jawbone of an ass" concept is a winner); and [Side by side?] for the geometrical formula for AREA (more math!). POMACE, or [Crushed pulp], is a rather fancy word for a mid-week crossword. The [Old German duchy name] SAXE used to be carried by the English royal family, who were the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha before wartime anti-Teutonic sentiment made them switch to the House of Windsor.
The New York Sun puzzle was constructed by Lee Glickstein. Before I solved this one, I had gotten an e-mail from Sun xword blogger Pete Mitchell. Pete was temporarily at a loss, not seeing the theme, but figured it out before I ever saw the puzzle. Then I solved the puzzle and found myself e-mailing Pete! I did figure out the theme after a bit, but it's hard to explain it. The five theme entries include paired long E, I, O, U, and A sounds, and if you advance each vowel one notch higher in the alphabetically ordered list of vowels, you find a more sensible batch of phrases lurking behind the theme entries, provided that you sound them out and pay no mind to retaining the spelling. To wit:
Favorite non-theme stuff: [Small contraction?] for LI'L; [Crime perpetrators, in police slang] for DOERS; [Munch kin city?] for OSLO (Edvard Munch was Norwegian, and this has nothing to do with Oz and munchkins outside of my head); SMITHERS from The Simpsons, or a [Cartoon character whose first name is Waylon]; YOGI BEAR, another toon and [Ranger Smith's nemesis]; [One walking down the aisle?] for a SHOPPER; and [High caste member in "Brave New World"] for ALPHA. I didn't know [Shortstop Dark who was the 1948 Rookie of the Year], ALVIN.
Dan Naddor's Wednesday LA Times crossword was somehow available a day early via Cruciverb.com, so I solved it and blogged about it on Tuesday. Here's what I had to say about it earlier: This puzzle has the same kind of theme as the Tuesday NYT: phrases that begin with homophones. It's a lovely puzzle, with five multicultural theme entries and a bunch of 7- and 9-letter answers in the fill. THAI CUISINE [usually includes a fish sauce called nam pla]. TY PENNINGTON is the oft-sleeveless ["Extreme Makeover" Home Edition" host]. TAE KWON DO is the [National sport of South Korea], though a less specific clue would have been good since KOREA is in the fill. TAI BABILONIA was a [Five-time U.S. Figure Skating Championships gold medalist]. And as the men's Wimbledon final demonstrated, [Some sets end in them] means TIE-BREAKERS. Four of the theme entries are laid out in stacked pairs, which is impressive. For my age cohort, the [Veep between Harry and Dick] is not too familiar: ALBEN Barkley was Truman's V.P. FMy favorite fill: the anachronistic SPEED-DIAL (there's no rotary dialing happening there); ESPIONAGE with a tricky clue (James [Bond activity?]); RATIONS clued as [Restricted fare?]; and the song "GET A JOB." I appreciated other clues, too: [White-collar worker?] for CLERIC; [Instant success?] for SANKA instant coffee; and [One in need of a lift] for SKIER.
In Mel Rosen's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Swap Meet," he swaps the words that appear on either side of "of the" in various phrases. Coin of the realm becomes REALM OF THE COIN, or [Mint?]. King of the jungle is JUNGLE OF THE KING, or [Monarch's private safari setting?]. The lady of the house turns into HOUSE OF THE LADY, or [Countess's castle?]. What ties these three things together is a royal slant—the king, the lady, the realm—though those three words don't all appear on the same side of the "of the." (How many other people have had a legitimate reason to write of the "of the" without that representing mangled grammar or lost clauses?)
July 08, 2008