Mike Nothnagel and Byron Walden are two of my favorite themeless constructors. They have similar sensibilities about the kinds of answers they like to wrestle into a grid, so it's natural that they'd pair up on this New York Times crossword. They're both mathematically inclined, so the minitheme of two related 15-letter answers makes sense:
I was just telling my kid that crosswords have a rotational symmetry rather than the left-right flip kind of symmetry mentioned on his math worksheet. And now this puzzle proves me wrong by having its symmetry be the reflected-images variety, with the line of symmetry running along the diagonal from upper left to lower right. I don't believe I've ever seen a crossword with this kind of arrangement.
And wow, look at the density of Saturday-friendly answers that would be Wednesday-hostile. Most of the Across answers aren't so bad (even if their clues may be tricky), but the Downs are a minefield:
Tough clues for familiar answers:
Other favorite things not already mentioned:
Barry Silk's LA Times crossword has a single "ick" answer (that'd be SWEAT STAIN, or [Workout consequence]) and a whole bunch of great ones:
Here are my favorite clues:
Crosswordese Maine college town Orono gets promoted to the big time with ORONO, MAINE, clued with [It's 42 miles NNW of Bar Harbor]. The [Mythical Hun king] is ATLI, and Tyler Hinman and I once named our trivia team after him. You know how the fish mahi mahi often shows up halfway in crosswords, clued as half a fish? Now MAHI is given as a complete entity: [Literally, "strong" in Hawaiian].
Today, the Newsday "Saturday Stumper" (solution here) seemed a little easier than the day's other themeless puzzles. It wasn't dull, though—there were a few clunky words (-ER ones) and boring ones (TERN, or [Skimmer relative]; ESSE, or [They: It.]), but a bunch of terrific answers too:
There were weird clues for MARION—the [Surprise-attack master of the Revolution], Francis MARION, is no one I'd ever heard of—and CRINGER ([Mouse, at times]). The CRINGER is accompanied by other -ER answers: STRUTTERS ([Peacocks, e.g.]), RIDGIER ([Comparatively corrugated]), ABLER ([Less error-prone]), VEXER ([Irritant]), and SKATERS ([They work with figures]).
Nobody really likes a clever clue for a danged marble-of-crosswordese, do they? TAW is clued as [Sharp shooter]. Much better is this fresh clue for OREO: [One of a half-trillion sold since 1912].
The "name the person for the title/quote" clues were tough. James AGEE is the ["Permit Me Voyage" poet]. Essayist ELIA is the ["Man is a gaming animal" writer]. Robert BORK is ["The Antitrust Paradox" author]. The ["A Bridge Too Far" author] is Cornelius RYAN; between this one and MARION, that's about two military-history answers too many for my taste. Tea LEONI is the ["Ghost Town" actress] from that Ricky Gervais movie that nobody saw last fall.
February 20, 2009