Ashish Vengsarkar and Narayan Venkatasubramanyan's New York Times crossword, "Literally So"
Whoa. I'm not sure I understand how all the theme entries work here. Let's walk through them one by one:
So, the theme can be described as (mostly) familiar phrases from which a word has been excised, and the concept of that X-less Y then clues the theme answer you write in the boxes. Does that sound about right? I didn't love every part of the theme, but I appreciated the mental exertion required to wrap my head around each theme entry. I also like the way the theme answers wield seven different ways of phrasing the concept of omission: OUT OF, -LESS, MISSING, WITHOUT, NO, LEAVES, and DROPS.
There is some insanely tough fill in this puzzle. "What are you talking about, Amy? This was a breeze," you say. Oh, yeah? Here are the things that slowed me down:
There are a couple cute wordplay clues. 34D: AVIS is clued as a [Company name that becomes another company name if you move its first letter to the end], Visa. This is the Unkind Donuts trick in reverse, of course. It's hard to come up with a clue for 103D: ARLO that is entertaining, but this one is [Man's name that's an anagram of 108-Down], which is the ORAL [Exam format].
This was a pretty tough Sunday puzzle, wasn't it? At this writing, one person in the NYT applet standings trounced me by two minutes (hi, Barry!), so I figure there'll be others who claim it wasn't so hard at all. But I know the truth.
Updated Sunday morning
Dan Naddor's syndicated Los Angeles Times crossword, "Organ Transplants"
This puzzle has a theme similar to another one I recently did; that one had a "transfer" theme that was fresh in my head so I knew how the theme was going to work once I had FELT CONDOLENCES filled in (24A: [Pool hall "Better luck next time"?]). An assortment of body parts are resected from one phrase and transplanted into another, with the phrases clued to reflect their changed wording. Organ donor theme entries 1, 2, 3, and 4 partner with organ recipients 8, 7, 6, and 5, their symmetrical partners.
In each case, the organ is cut out of a compound word/phrase and is then compounded with another word in its new home (heartfelt/heartbreak, Buckeyes/eyelashes, brainstorming/brainchild, ear-splitting/dog-ear). This looks like ironclad thematic consistency to me—elegant. (PuzzleGirl calls it "elegant" too.) Here's how the transplants were performed:
The original with- and without-organ phrases the theme entries are based on are all very much in-the-language entities. A Google search suggests that both 40 and 50 lashes are common counts (and that too many countries still use this barbaric punishment). FELT CONDOLENCES is perhaps the weakest of the eight theme answers, because we don't much refer to pool halls with a metonymic "felt," I don't think. But everything else is so smooth I'm willing to take one B- answer amid the solid A's.
In the fill, I didn't hit any potholes—nothing too stretchy or obscure. The highlights are the longer answers:
Merl Reagle's Sunday crossword, "Gosh!" (Philadelphia Inquirer et al.)
The term 4G refers to the fourth generation of wireless cell phone technology, the theme entries in "Gosh!" gush with at least four G's. There's not much inherent humor in the theme aside from some of the phrases being fun to say aloud:
Toughest word in the fill: 56D: STADES, or [Straight tracks for footraces].
Most insidery clue/answer: 41D: [The other Will who was New York Times crossword editor] was Will WENG. He's the editor Will Shortz is quoting when he says, "It's your puzzle. Solve it any way you want." (With references/Google or without. Alone or with a friend. In pen or pencil or glue stick or online. Slow or fast. With morning coffee or evening bourbon.)
I like AQUILA, the 18A: [Constellation that means "eagle"]; someone with an aquiline nose has a beak that's curved or hooked like an eagle's beak.
All right, how many of you found 11D: [Savonarola's first name] to be a gimme? I think I've seen this one before, but I still needed an awful lot of crossings to get to GIROLAMO. Various baby name websites tell me it means "sacred name" and is essentially the same as Jerome and Hieronymus.
Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon's Boston Globe crossword, "All Wet"
Anyone know if the Across Lite Globe puzzle has caught up to the Sunday paper? Bostonians, is this puzzle over a month old, or is it this weekend's?
The theme is embedded bodies of water (which I've spotlighted with circled squares) split among the words in various concocted phrases. BROOK sits in CUB ROOKIES, which almost sounds in-the-language but isn't ("Cubs rookie" is the commoner formation). The other theme entries don't even have the pretense of being in-the-language phrases. For example, CAPON DANCE, clued as [The Funky Chicken?], is just silly. Then there's OSLO CHA-CHA, or [Steps in a Norwegian ballroom?], the goofiest answer in the puzzle. Aww, too bad the rest of the theme couldn't be about dancing, too, or at least be assertively silly. The FAST REAMER drill just isn't silly.
Least familiar word in the answers: ZOUAVE, or 89A: [French soldier from Algeria].
Patrick Jordan's themeless CrosSynergy "Sunday Challenge"
JOHN LEGUIZAMO stars in the middle of the grid. He is, among other things, a ["Carlito's Way" actor]. I like him. Something about his face reminds me of Gilbert Gottfried, only Leguizamo is a talented actor and not incessantly annoying.
Hey, look! It's AQUILINE! I was just telling you about this word, clued as [Adjective for some noses].
Ten other clues/answers:
August 29, 2009