(updated at 9 a.m. Tuesday)
Randall Hartman's New York Times crossword feels a little more Wednesdayish than Tuesdayish, doesn't it? The five 15-letter theme answers (that's 75 theme squares, which is quite a lot) are the sort of phrases that seem better suited to clues than to crossword answers, as the theme gimmick resides in the clues and solvers need to piece together the answers bit by bit.
The least exciting bits of fill—answers like ELOI, suffix ERO, AM SO, and [Jack of "The Great Dictator"] OAKIE—tend to intersect with two of the long theme answers or sit astride a theme answer, so they're there in the service of a higher good.
Lee Glickstein's Sun crossword, "A New Beginning," has a theme that sounds simple enough on its surface—four words get new prefixes to change their meaning—but made me think from start to finish. In each instance, the result of the prefix change is a two-word phrase rather than a single word. A [Music nut?] is a STEREO MANIAC; an obsessive person is a monomaniac, and back in the days of vinyl, records could be recorded in stereo or mono. [Inmate dream?] is a CON VISION. The opposite of con- is pro-, and provision is a single word. [Where to buy underwater vessels?] is the SUB MARKET. Sub- means below, while super- means above, and we've all been to the supermarket. Reversing the pre- in precautions gives us POST CAUTIONS, or [Put up warning signs?]. Cool theme—just bendy enough to give the noggin a workout, but straightforward enough for a Tuesday...or maybe a Wednesday.
My favorite clues:
Neville Fogarty's LA Times crossword invites all the famous WHITE SUIT men to a party:
I enjoyed this sartorial theme. Hovering around the theme entries are some unusual answers that don't appear much in Tuesday crosswords. ["The Sorcerer's Apprentice" composer] is Frenchman Paul DUKAS, not a household name. Then there's AZOIC [__ Era: old name for Earth's pre-life period]. Nautical terminology includes HAWSE, or [Anchor line's hole]. My favorite clue: [Athletic supporter?] for a TEE, as in the little doohickey that holds up a golf ball or a football.
I didn't recognize the constructor's name. Neville Fogarty is likely this young man who was on Jeopardy! in 2000 at age 11, and I think this puzzle is his constructing debut. Welcome!
Lynn Lempel's "Popinjays" puzzle for CrosSynergy pops in a J to alter four phrases:
In the past, SAUNA has been clued similarly, and some have argued that a sauna is not a [Steamy bath]. Mostly it's hot and dry, yes, but when water's thrown on hot rocks, there's temporary steam. Either way, I don't like the heat. There were two squares that led me astray temporarily. [Blackball] could be BAN or BAR, and I opted for the former until NIVERJOTTER made no sense. [Hold tightly] could be CLAMP or CLASP, and again I chose wrong. The crossing [Roman sun god] is SOL, not MOL.
October 20, 2008