Natan Last's New York Times crossword
When it comes to a Monday puzzle, I tend to look at 1-Across and, without writing in that answer, start on the Down clues that it feeds into. Imagine my surprise when 1- and 2-Down were both the sorts of zippy answers you expect to see in a themeless puzzle on Friday or Saturday—MR. BURNS is the [Owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant on "The Simpsons"] and YOU'RE IT is a [Shout in tag]. The rest of the puzzle wasn't quite up to the same level, but really, one isn't expecting a Monday puzzle to have as much breathtaking fill of a sparkling themeless. The theme is a basic vowel-progression theme, with the added oomph of a surprisingly non-stodgy middle entry:
I like how the corners of the grid have meaty, Friday-style white space in them. Favorite clues and answers:
Updated Monday morning:
Fred Jackson III's L.A. Times crossword
After I figured out the first two theme entries—FULL OF ONESELF, or [Conceited], and HALF-BAKED IDEA, or [Plan not completely thought out]—I decided the next one would begin with QUARTER. But it's less of a mathematical progression and more of a gas-tank progression, as the third and final theme entry is EMPTY PROMISES, or [Much campaign rhetoric]. Or maybe it's not a gas tank, but the optimist and pessimist's drinking glasses, half-full or half-empty.
I would have liked to see livelier fill in this puzzle, since there are only 39 theme squares here. QUAFFS ([Beers and ales]) crossing COIFFURE ([Hairdo]) is cool, though. The awkward RESNAP, or [Shoot again], is accompanied by a surfeit of short fill like ERN, SSE, ANAT, ULT, OPER, STES, UAR, and SSA.
ACA, or [Here, in Spain], is one of those Spanish words that maybe folks in L.A. are more familiar with than I am. What's the difference between ACA and AQUI? I know AQUI better.
For another take on this puzzle, here's PuzzleGirl's L.A.C.C. post.
Brendan Emmett Quigley's themeless blog crossword, "Superchunk"
Brendan's offering today is a themeless puzzle with a relatively low word count (66, I think) and lots of kickass fill. Would you look at this stuff:
There's also a LAST-GASP effort, THE HAWKS who were [1958 NBA champions], I DARESAY, and EVITA PERON's full name. The lowly green PEA that's a [Samosa ingredient] has me hankering for Indian food with some cooling chutney on the side.
Martin Ashwood-Smith's CrosSynergy puzzle, "Heavens Above"
The trio of 15-letter theme entries give us the sun, moon, and stars:
I like ZEKE, who is clued as [Quarterback Bratkowski]. Zeke was my college nickname. Up above it in the grid, there's ORANGEADE, and Orange is my blogosphere nickname. If only the abbreviation AME or AMER or AMES, Iowa had made it into the grid—then all the bases would be covered. Moving past nicknames, we get a couple full names—BRIAN ENO and THOMAS MANN. Is it just me, or do constructors really include more full-name fill featuring crosswordese people than noncrosswordese people? TOMHANKS is an 8 like BRIANENO, but we get Mr. Eno's full name much more often. It's those crossword-friendly letter patterns.
April 12, 2009