Whoo! That was not a hard crossword. I'm pretty sure I haven't cracked the 6-minute mark on a Sunday New York Times crossword before, but Barry Silk and Doug Peterson's "The Cruciverbalist" facilitated that just now. The theme entries are familiar to anyone who has submitted their work to Will Shortz, though a great many of those people don't make it to [Step 6 (the payoff)]. Here are the [Cruciverbalist's Step 1] through 6:
The exact wording of each theme answer wasn't completely obvious, and of course to anyone who hasn't given much thought to how constructors make puzzles, the steps and their order might be elusive. But the non-theme answers that surround the six steps were easy enough to usher solvers through the process. Perhaps because there are just six theme entries (albeit long ones), Barry and Doug were able to avoid any deadly crossings. The only completely unfamiliar answer I encountered was MNEME, or [Memory principle]; I know mnemonic but not MNEME (the word doesn't have a Wikipedia article for this definition, but look, it has its own web page). Wait, that's not true. HARZ, as in [Germany's ___ National Park], was also new to me.
The answers I liked best were these ones:
Assorted other clues:
Henry Hook's Boston Globe crossword rerun in Across Lite, "Body of Work," takes as its theme phrases that pair a body part and an "of ___" component. Working from the top down, there's HAIR OF THE DOG, HEAD OF CABBAGE ("head of steam" or "head of the household" would also have fit), EYE OF THE TIGER ("...the needle" also works), NECK OF THE WOODS, BACK OF BEYOND ("...the box"), CHEST OF DRAWERS, HEART OF THE MATTER ("...palm"), and the roving BONE OF CONTENTION. What, no 'leg of lamb," "butt of the joke," "belly of the beast"? I had one square awry, where a crossing could have a different letter and still pass muster for both clues—[Rush headlong] is CAREE* and [Excludes] is BA*S. CAREEN/BANS or CAREER/BARS? It's the latter, but a noun definition for either word would have made the choice clearer. There was another iffy square—the [Speculative investment] could be spelled FLIER or FLYER, and the crossing [City of Ecuador], c'mon, how many of you know if it's IBARRA or YBARRA? Turns out to be the I. A couple other relatively obscure words are here. AURATE is a [Gold-based acid salt]. HOSTLER is clued as [Roundhouse employee]; this innkeeper's hired tender of horses can also be spelled OSTLER, which also shows up occasionally in crosswords.
Merl Reagle's Philadelphia Inquirer crossword, "Oscar Night," redefines a bunch of words and phrases in an Academy awards context:
XEBEC, the [Corsair's vessel], has got to be the single most obscure word in this crossword. I like seeing L.A. TIMES right up top at 1-Across, clued as a [W Coast daily].
Dan Naddor's syndicated Sunday Los Angeles Times crossword, "Star Search," combines a crossword puzzle with a word search. Naddor takes a couple liberties with the theme entries' layout. The eight theme entries are titles of movies whose stars won an OSCAR (116-Across), the [Award won by lead actors in this puzzle's starred films: the winners' names are hidden "word search"-style in the grid (across, down or diagonally, and forward or backward)], but they're not all in symmetrical locations. (I've added circles to the squares where the stars' names are spelled out in my solution grid.) A couple long non-theme answers butt in:
In addition to PHILADELPHIA, here are the theme entries:
Despite the limitations that the word-search answers place on the constructor, the overall fill is remarkably smooth—no overreliance on unfamiliar abbreviations, foreign vocabulary, or obscurities.
(If you're an LA Times reader, you may be wondering why this isn't the same puzzle that's in your Sunday paper. I don't solve the one that's printed in the Sunday LA Times, but you can do the excellent syndicated Sunday puzzle for free. Just register (it's free) at Cruciverb.com, download the Across Lite crossword-solving software (also free) here, and click the LA Times link in the Cruciverb home page's sidebar on Sundays. The Monday through Saturday LA Times puzzles are also available in Across Lite via Cruciverb, and these will be the same as what's in the newspaper. With Across Lite, you can solve on-screen, save a partially finished puzzle for later, or print it out for pen/pencil solving. )
Randolph Ross's CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge" has some sort of blah fill, but also some fun stuff:
In the "blah" category, we have these:
February 21, 2009