Let's START at the very beginning, a very good place to start. Roger Baiocchi follows that advice to get his NYT crossword career off to a good start. His Monday, July 28 puzzle (answers) takes that and some other answer phrases literally in this nice early-week theme. These sorts of self-referential clues tap into the same kind of pleasure that made Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid such an absorbing read twenty years ago. Well, at a rather different level.
The Sam Houston clue gets his TEXAS political career in chronological order. He was President of the Republic of Texas, Senator after it joined the U.S., and finally Governor. The state named a major city after him calling it, I believe, Sam.
HENNA is almost always clued with a reference to a redhead's dye so the temporary tattoo twist was nice. James AGEE's combination of last-name letters is a gift to constructors. Both The African Queen and Night of the Hunter are fascinating screenplays. AJAX was one of the greatest warriors in the Trojan War. You may recall that Homer describes him poetically as being "stronger than dirt." I didn't know who Pinky Lee was, but Peggy Lee still gives me shivers. What a great voice.
In an attempt to crank up the Freshness Factor™ of this site, it's time to bring in a couple of Guest Bloggers. I have more traditional crossword folks in the pipeline but the crazy twist on these next two is that they are people I actually know. In fact,at one time or another I reported to each of them in my day job. John Ludwig will post Friday but tomorrow we hear from Danny Glasser.
Danny hails from what would be the fourth largest city in the U.S. if it were, in fact, still an independent city. He's still pining for the Dodgers to return from L.A. His main qualification here is that he quotes Groucho in daily conversation even more often than I do. People find this extremely annoying, of course, so perhaps he'll avoid that temptation. We'll see.