THE DOWNSIZING OF NATHANIEL AMES
Yesterday I started my review by saying that a pleasing grid shape can influence how I feel about a puzzle. Another thing that can sway me is a good title, and when I read today's, I couldn't wait to dig in and find out what it meant. It turned out that the trick was to simply follow the instructions and "downsize" by using only the first initial of the first name and concatenating with the last name to make a new word. Thus: "The downsizing of names."
The answer that gave it to me was the amusingly-clued PROSEPOETRY (31A: "Charlie Hustle is my name / I am banned from the Hall of Fame," e.g.?). Once you know what's going on, some of them give the first letter away, like 20A: Things smoked by singer Courtney? (CLOVECIGARETTES), but I didn't really mind that. The theme entries are all pretty good. I didn't know what CHANDLERBING was, but I looked it up and it seems to have been a character on the show "Friends." MALIEMPIRE seemed a bit odd, but it's hard to criticize anything having to do with Muhammed Ali, so I'll let it slide.
The non-theme fill was quite good, I thought. The top half of URLHIJACKING (58D: Underhanded use of someone else's domain name) looks amazing in the grid, and its symmetrical pairing HARRYHOUDINI is also strong. Other highlights include MINOTAUR (83D: Figure at the center of a maze), PERJURE (67D: Forswear), DANK (54A: Cold and wet), LEOTARD (92D: Trampolinist's wear), and KIDNEYS (30D: Nephrologists study them). Who knew?
Sure, we've got the usual bits of glue, like CTA, ERM, GENL, SEGO, SSNS, and EXS (but it is "Ex's" in the song title), but I don't mind. This was a quality Sunday puzzle.