*Also including whatever other newspapers get their puzzles from the same place–presumably most or all Tribune-owned papers.
First off, I have to point out that I don’t do the puzzle every day, and also the ones I do work on aren’t necessarily in the order of publication, so I can’t say exactly when I noticed the trend. But here are some examples from Thursday, June 12. I’m leaving out the clue numbers to avoid giving away too much of the actual layout of the puzzle in question.
Chardonnay, e.g. (WHITE WINE).
Help out. (ASSIST)
Pride ____ before a fall. (GOETH [like any of you don’t know this.)
Tel-Aviv’s land. (ISR)
Holy Moses! (WOW)
Michigan’s _____ Peninsula. (I refuse to insult my fellow Dopers by reporting the answer.)
This puzzle also happened to have a famous-golfers theme, but the names were so well known that you didn’t need to be a player or fan to know them. I’d say the change seems to have occurred around the beginning of this month, which leads me to wonder if there’s been a change of staff here, or if the regular crossword writer is on leave. Certain easy answers seem to be cropping up with discouraging frequency; for example this makes twice the answer “EASY A” has come up for “No-brainer course” or a similar clue. AT SEA appeared in another puzzle as well.
Until recently, I’ve usually found that the daily puzzles, although much smaller, seemed to be generally tougher on a per-clue basis than the huge Sunday puzzles. Typically, I would complete about 50% of a daily puzzle before going on to something else, only later revisiting it, if at all; now, however, I’ve been breezing through them at one sitting.
It makes me sad.