I'm a big fan of cooking shows, so the base phrases are all household names to me. Hope they were familiar to solvers. Some of the others that didn't make the cut were JAMES BEER, JAMIE OLIVE, and JULIA CHILI. I'm glad I managed to work in SAUSAGE ROLL and COOKOUT, but I wish I could have had a food-related phrase for the other long down. As regulars on the L.A. Times Crossword Corner blog have noted, I tend to have a lot of food items in many of my LATs. Maybe it's because I'm usually hungry while constructing.
Hello again, solvers! Glad to be back in the Puzzle Society. This puzzle began with the seed entries of BAD BREATH and HALITOSIS, which I noticed had the same number of letters. Efforts to stack them on top of one another proved fruitless, so I put them in opposite corners and set to work filling in the rest of the themeless. I'm pretty proud of the fill in this puzzle (IN A PICKLE, TIMES SQUARE BALL, SHRIVEL UP), although I wish there was something I could've done about ULT. Happy solving!
I kind of backed into this theme. I have been relying primarily on pop culture themes but am finding out that they tend to be a bit dated. The new direction that I took in this puzzle relies more on wordplay, and David provided great insight into how to improve the fill.
This puzzle speaks to the odd use of the term word ladder, doesn't it, for yes, one can, of course, climb down a ladder, but it's usually got the connotation of something one climbs up. Anyhow, I am usually not a huge fan of this type of puzzle, but I was encouraged to pursue this one in part because of the unexpected direction it would take (through TOOTHSOME, no less!). The theme imparts a certain feeling to the grid: the top half of the puzzle seems brightly lit; the bottom half seems engulfed in a dark shadow. One of John McPhee's many dear pieces of advice on writing comes to mind. Calling thesauruses "useful" but "dangerous," he writes: "At best, [they] are mere rest stops in the search for the mot juste." Moral: caveat utilitor.
Many times when I have finally finished polishing up a puzzle, I have become neutral to it. The familiarity thing kicks in. But I think I will always like this one, if only because Sylvester the Cat is running through the middle. :-)