My brother sent his kids to a private school where they were the token minorities. Every year, they were asked to present their cultural heritage for Chinese New Year. Every time, Alex and I would cackle as we plotted all the crazy things we'd have the kids tell their classmates about the SPRING FESTIVAL. It usually involved Taiwanese people administering resounding slaps in the butt.
There is a "gong" in "gong xi fa cai," after all.
I didn't think I was going to enjoy this puzzle. I don't like being forced to learn (except when it involves spanking clueless folks). To my surprise, I loved picking up SOLLAL, NOWRUZ, and SONGKRAN.
Part of the reason was that C.C. went out of her way to make the crosses not only fair but obvious, so those three new words appeared as if by magic. That's a complicated task, and C.C. accomplished it perfectly.
The more significant part was that these three terms echoed SPRING FESTIVAL and ROSH HASHANAH, building me a larger world view of new year celebrations. It made me feel more connected across the globe, at a time when I badly could use any sense of community possible.
The grid wasn't as connected as the theme, unfortunately, chopped up into nine mini-puzzles. Part of the issue is that an even-numbered width (14) creates challenges in mirror layouts, making it harder to place black squares in certain middle locations, and I know, you stopped listening to my technical mumblings back in the Year of the Ass.
Now don't worry, this gong stick isn't going to hurt … much …
(okay, it will)
NIFTY gridwork, especially for 1.) a debut, and 2.) a tricky layout. Working with stacked themers is rarely easy, and four sets make for a potential minefield. Meredith did a great job separating the themers from each other, allowing each pair of entries to breathe.
Note the perfect symmetry, too. BENDS (over) BACKWARDS is opposite from WATER (under) THE BRIDGE. A CUT (above) THE REST on the east, and HITS (below) THE BELT on the west. That's a nice touch.
I worry when seeing long adjacent Downs, like ADOLESCENT and LOST CAUSES, because it's so tough to come up with entries that sing while keeping glue out of your short crossing entries. Such a solid result in the upper right! Nothing flashy, but nothing needle-scratching. I appreciate that trade-off.
INHIBITIVE felt slightly off in the opposite corner — who uses that ridiculous word?! — but I didn't find it painfully inhibitive.
Constructors, be aware that one person's glue is another's treasure. A few years ago, Will Shortz asked me to redo an entire Sunday grid because he didn't think OBO ("or best offer") was fair if you'd never heard of it. Other editors disagree (and Will may well have changed his mind by now).
The "X literally Y" genre is overdone but underappreciated. Just like with other mature theme categories, there's usually room for an example with outstanding and elegant execution, and this strong debut qualifies.
★ I SLUMPED from being STUMPED but quickly went from WTF? to FTW! How could [Key lime] possibly be MOMENT OF TRUTH? Doubly fun to realize in that moment of truth that the clue writer hadn't followed the reminder the CROSS YOUR TS — as in [Key time], not [Key lime]. Such a perfect obfuscation, "key lime" sounding perfectly legit!
All of Adam's tomfoolery was so innocent, not a single theme clue making my Thursday-trickery-radar ping. My favorite was [One for whom libel is a major issue]. I plunked in PUBLISHER and happily admitted getting gotten, when the DALAI LAMA appeared on behalf of not libel, but Tibet. The double-t-crossing double-cross = genius!
I'm not often a fan of "Thursday trick in the clues," because the wordings can sound weirdly unnatural, or they get lost in the shuffle. There's a reason why most editors focus on long grid entries for 99% of puzzles.
Today's falls into that rare category of trickery-in-clues puzzles that works brilliantly. I rarely want to spend time reviewing anything after finishing a crossword, but I spent half an hour marveling at all the natural-sounding flim-flammery — as well as the fact that Adam didn't have any stray Ls in the non-theme clues!
In case you missed any of the genius, we've highlighted the themers below. Note that although symmetry wasn't 100% necessary, Adam did a great job of putting all his long themers in opposing spots. Dotting so many short themers around the rest of the grid made my Is open wide, too.
LOOSEY-GOOSEY and NOT TOO SHABBY, what great ways to anchor a themeless! Such fun to say each phrase.
A few months ago, our daughter had a playdate. After we dropped her off, Jill suggested taking our son to get ice cream. He squealed with delight as I groaned, whispering that there would be hell to pay. Jill's logic was that they both get to do something fun, so that should be fair, right?
Twenty years later, our VERMONSTER daughter will be ranting to her therapist about how unfair that decision was.
So much of Friday themelesses are about personal connection, and I loved SPACEBALLS. Ludicrous speed, go!
I can already see gen alpha folks tweeting the Ok, Boomer meme.
Aside from the usual suspects editors list on their spec sheets (ELL, OMB, MGMT, ORL, ORO), the one entry I cocked my head at was TURN EVIL. I suppose it's a thing, but it feels on par with BECOME HAPPY or GROW SNOOTY. Thankfully, an evil genius of a clue saved the day. "Stopped working for (the forces of) good" made me become happy!
I enjoy entries like BACKRONYM, although the clue could have done a better job at generating an a-ha moment. "America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response," if I may be so bold—
AMBER ALERT, BAD PUNSTER ON THE LOOSE!
It's enough to make you turn evil.
Jim Horne and I took the opportunity between delta and omicron to get together outside and eat Korean food. If you've never had BI BIM BAP, you've probably recently seen it in a crossword. And it's amazing, especially in a sizzling stone pot!
PARENTHESIS is not an exciting entry. However, a genius wordplay clue like [The right one can produce a smile] turned my 8-? into a 8-).
Another delightful clue: [Result of selling out]. Who are you calling a sellout? Okay, I sold out years ago when I went to business school. But listen! I use those skills in working with non-profits to help them grow, and I only take advantage of tax laws when—
Oh, right. Selling out a theater to make a PACKED HOUSE. That one gave me the business!
Two entries today that weren't already on our XWord Info word list: I doubt anyone would strive to add CRUDS, and PRECODE flummoxed me (especially with my inability to connect EDUARD and Russian). However, the latter was one of Jim's few gimmes, and he told me fascinating tales of the differences between PRE-CODE and after-code Hollywood movies.
It was a downer to get TASED PERPS GATEWAY DRUG PETTY TYRANT in the center of the puzzle, but I loved seeing CORY Booker get a shout-out. He graduated two years before me, so I see his name in the Class Notes section of our alumni magazine, with all his accomplishments. Elected as mayor! Then to the U.S. Senate! Saved people from a fire!
And my classmates wonder why I never write in with my [Jeff writes a crossword blog that his own mother doesn't read] updates …
Schrödinger puzzles work best when either answer is equally valid; a true 50/50. Four excellent finds today, with WRIST / WAIST a standout. The clue's specificity is what makes it shine — WRIST band and WAIST band both fit perfectly. Note that a more general clue like [Body part] would have felt like the constructor was reaching to make a single clue work.
Also note that I said four excellent finds. Trying to pass off STAR WARS as the better of the franchises will get you a bat'leth in the butt. "Phantom Menace," anyone? Jar Jar Binks or the stereotypical Asian aliens?
Huh? What about the crapfest known as Voyager, you ask?
Logically, I must now Vulcan nerve pinch you.
Overall, this might have made for a better Thursday than Sunday, since the gimmick is a one-trick pony. The quotes and characters also felt random — more specificity would have been better than "any seven-letter character" or "any 21-letter quote."
Amusing premise for this wannabe Starfleet Academy cadet, though.
(Yes, more like space cadet.)
Hold your centaurs, one is at 50-Across.
There have been so many hidden words themes over the years, that Will Shortz has upped his threshold for acceptance. He sometimes balks at phrases where a word "doesn't do any work," i.e., SHAKES and HEELS have no monstrous overlap in their respective phrases.
PISTACHIO GREEN would more fit the criterion, but NO GREAT SHAKES is such a slap-bang expression that its color more than makes up for the deficiency.
It's odd to have NO GREAT SHAKES in the grid because it has anything but that. Some constructors argue with me that given five longish themers, it's a miracle to simply escape with something workable. No, no, no!
As with today's grid, generating a product with excellent bonuses is almost always possible. It'd have been fine to stop at TAILGATES and MADE A FIST, but Rebecca made a victorious fist by adding DINING SET and STEPS ON IT with only STDS to pay. The time and effort you clearly put in here are greatly appreciated, Rebecca!
CREATE A MONSTER is one of those phrases that constructors drool over, such potential for wordplay. Today's theme phrases don't "create" a monster as much "find" ones — this blog host boos a little — but it does work.
Finally, a puzzle for us uber-dorks! Forget the NYT crossword's usual snooty art and literature references. Chuck the too-clever culture clues. Screw science fiction — today we're treated to science fact! BARS. METER. GRAMS. NEWTON!
No, no, no! You can't use a non-SI unit when you've used three standards. It should have been PASCALS.
Huh? No in-the-language phrases use PASCAL? Yeah, but—
Watt? No one knows weber SI units are important or not?
Ohm my God, my head hertz.
Reasonable early-week theme, although the parentheticals in clues gave away the idea right off the bat. Even something straightforward as UNIT could have served as a revealer.
Okay fine, no one would have recognized the BAR or NEWTON as a UNIT!
I'm out of lux today.
Although the theme straddled the no-man's-land between techies and fuzzies, I enjoyed so much of the fill. LOLCATS are from a generation ago, but I still lol at them. CILANTRO makes me remember a friend who nearly broke up with someone because he thought it tasted like soap. OOH BABY, that was a lot to enjoy!
ADDED NOTE: It wasn't until I read the constructing trio's note that I realized all the themers are fruit-related. D'oh! That helps elevate the concept, no doubt, and I appreciate that it's an observation I never would have noticed. Still, without some revealer to pull things together — a shame that FRUITY UNIT isn't a real phrase — it's kind of an odd mix-up of fruits and voltables.
Trivia! An ELECTRIC / EEL is not really an EEL?
(running off to correct roughly 58,000 EEL clues I've written over the years …)
What has my life become?
I loved the clue for SEA / CUCUMBER. It is certainly not a cucumber! Clearly spoken from the mouth of someone who's had some unpleasant teatime sandwiches.
It was a shame to end on the strange ORCA / WHALE. We Seattleites are lucky to hear about orca pods all the time, and sometimes we even see them in person. Saying "orca whale" will get you Space Needled.
Knowing Grant's fondness for old-school video games, I smiled as I dropped in Sonic's foe, Doctor ROBOTNIK. Then I lost all my rings upon reading that they've changed him to Doctor EGGMAN. It's a terrible name change, but at least the rise of the chickens is less threatening than the rise of the machines.
My brother used to go around saying, "Actually, a year isn't 365 days, but more accurately 365.25, and even more accurately—" before getting punched in the face. I bet some solvers might have a similar reaction today, but I enjoyed learning some interesting, albeit trivial, trivia.
I almost UNITED the UNDOTTED words today.
Tricksy concept, DOT THE IS interpreted as "transform any I in the grid into a DOT rebus for the Down direction." Took me so long to figure out what was going on that I went ity. Great rebus finds, though, AVOCADO TOAST so hipster, JUDO THROW evocative, and YOU DO THE MATH another snazzy phrase.
Note how August always used phrases that broke DOT across words — that's typically one of Will Shortz's criteria for these types of puzzles. Something like AMUSING ANECDOTE is not as interesting.
At least that's what my kids tell me.
Flipping rebuses go back decades, Jim Horne immediately recalling a brilliant one in which Liz Gorski played with ON/OFF SWITCHES. That gave perfect rationale for why the rebus should work differently in Across and Down: ON and OFF rebuses switch! I didn't mind not knowing exactly what to write in those special squares.
I had a more difficult time rationalizing today why I should be using I in one direction and DOT in the other. What to write in each box? I finally shoved in I/DOT, although that looked vaguely I/DOTic.
Strong construction, the end result both colorful and clean. A construction secret: although it's much harder to solve a flipping than a normal rebus, flipping ones are much easier to construct. Simply enter AVOCAIOAST and fill around it as per usual.
Don't get me wrong. That doesn't take away from the care August put into the grid. Easy to GUSH OVER mid-length entries like DOG LEG, GUNSHY, OZARKS, and RHESUS.
I found the concept confusing enough that it didn't generate a clean, sharp a-ha moment, but it was a nice change of rebus pace.
★ Sometimes, a single sizzling entry in a themeless is all it takes to rev me up.
When I first started cracking into Fridays, SAY THE MAGIC WORD made me so happy that any crossword glue couldn't slime my smile. Today, YE OF LITTLE FAITH accomplished the same thing.
But IS NOTHING SACRED, that phrase doubling the impact? Whoa!
Along with the LOCH NESS MONSTER and the fun trivia about the "surgeon's photograph," Trenton could have poured gallons of AGS-ENT-ESE-ESS over me, and I still wouldn't have been on the LAMS.
(Only the most annoyingly compulsive crossword people will remember how many times AGREE TO DISAGREE has been part of a triple-stack. Let's agree to agree that I am one of the aforementioned. What, did you really think I wouldn't mention that? Oh ye of little faith.)
I've had the pleasure of working on dozens of puzzles with Mary Lou over the years, and knowing her preferences and tendencies helped a ton today.
Given that she asked me to help make a puzzle last year seeded with KAMALA HARRIS, all I had to read was [Voting rights activist …] before I dropped in STACEY ABRAMS.
On a similar note, I've taken to playing Wordle with a twist: I use my friends' emoji posts and knowledge of their starting words, frequently being able to deduce the word in one guess.
Ain't I a stinker?
The other headliner was tougher to uncover, but that made it incredibly satisfying. I was positive it was something like DON'T EXT___ ... is DON'T EXTEND IT a thing? Guess I should have followed the clue's advice about looking at the bigger picture! CONTEXT IS KEY is one of those stellar phrases we wish we had already added to our Word List.
Some great clues to flesh out the solving experience, too:
Happy KIFNCGECA's Day!
(We've animated the changed central letters to save you the work of figuring out the secret message, if it wasn't already obvious.)
Did you notice that the nine special squares are in the exact middle of both their Across and Down entries — and that the new letters form new, valid words in both directions? It's not simply UNLIKEABLE to UNLIVABLE but also WOKEN to WOVEN.
I didn't heart this puzzle as much as David's last one, because the before-to-after changes weren't as awe-inspiring. While it is a feat to find two different words that involve (some other letter) changing to V, it's not nearly as fascinating as SPIDERMAN to EPIDERMAL.
Given David's coding skills, I'd love to see what he could have done if he'd stricken the requirement to have the Down answers also morph. Finding long Across answers that involve a spacing change would have had me in a pitter-patter.
As David mentioned though, gridding around 9x2 intersecting themers — few of which were flexible to change — is no mean feat. Kudos for even incorporating SRI LANKA, PEN LIGHT, VENDETTA with an interesting piece of trivia about vengeance. And make no mistake, AVOGADRO is my number one pick!
(Well, number 6.022 * 1023, anyway.)
When the iPhone was about to debut in 2007, my brother shook his head, clucking his tongue. Raising his trusty flip-phone, he declared that so-called "SMART" PHONEs would never catch on. Too bulky! Too easy to smudge! Too expensive!
Too bad. Apple stock has gone up just a smidge since then.
I held onto my Razr until four years ago, when the AT&T guy burst into laughter when I took it in. "Does this thing even make calls?" he snorted.
(If you yell into it loudly enough.)
Thank goodness I finally joined the herd. Thank goodness for my trusty Samsung Galaxy 4!
(sounds of AT&T tech support people cackling at me)
Amazing to think of what our phones do these days. Say bye-bye to the COMPASS I carried when I traveled to Japan, since I couldn't read the street signs. No need to wear a PEDOMETER anymore!
(Except that I don't know how to turn on the pedometer in my phone. Ahem.)
I enjoyed much of the debut gridwork, a tough challenge to work around so many not-too-short but not-too-long themers. It often gets tricky when themers pile up, like in the middle with the potentially newb-unfriendly DINAR / NAS crossing. Working in some PIE CHART, STILETTO, YOO HOO helped soothe that pain point.
This theme didn't charm me, but it is thought-provoking, making me wonder what tech innovations will make the SMARTPHONE feel antiquated 20 years from now. (When they pry the Galaxy 4 out of my cold, dead hands.)
Such an elegant theme: four sporting venues that can all be used both as nouns and verbs. Not only that, but each of the verbs can start a legitimate phrase? That certainly would RING my constructor ALARM BELLS — if I were clever enough to think of it.
As if that wasn't enough, Claire wove so much fun into the clues. Those Europeans, eating their "Cool American" DORITOS. I bet they don't even have pumpkin-spiced everything yet in AUTUMN.
And I shall thusly explain the MEN clue to you …
Or maybe not.
Not a jump-out-of-your-seat sort of theme discovery, but one to sit back and admire. Beautiful early-week concept.
Hardly a JOYLESS solve, four phrases hinting at elements that might gild the lengendary COAT OF MANY COLORS. I used to listen to "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" on repeat decades ago — and if you've completed Puzzle Boat 8, I want to chat with you about how awesome it was!
WHITE COLLAR is a bit drab for a COAT OF MANY COLORS, but SILVER LINING perfectly fits the Elvis-like role of the Pharaoh in "Joseph."
I wish YELLOWTAILS didn't sound odd in the plural. It does fit the flashy dreamcoat image, though.
I appreciated Rich's efforts to sizzle up his grid, especially for those who might not be into musicals or Bible stories. Adjacent Downs are hard enough, but when they run through two themers, they can be downright nasty, almost always forcing trade-offs. ECARTE crossing SCRY is some old-school mystical material (then again, I am a huge Jonathan Strange fan). For a mid-week puzzle, it's reasonable(ish) as the price to pay for SECRET PLAN and ACTIVE ROLE.
Hilariously baffling clue — [Line when you're late for the punch line] — for OH I GET IT. Oh, the IRONY that I didn't get it.
What did the mad scientist shout after shrinking his nemesis?
Terrible dad joke, but an apt description of today's theme. I spent a embarrassing amount of time trying to think of other synonyms for "small" that could fit this concept, and I failed miserably. To come up with five — all food-related! — is no small feat.
Given enough brainstorming time, I would have thought of SMALL FRIES and even MERE TRIFLE, given my fanboying over Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith. ATOMIC SUBMARINE is a triumph, though. ATOMIC a synonym I might never have considered, and linking it to a SUBMARINE sandwich is amazing.
To explain Aaron's point further. It's typically better to start with your 10-letter themer — in this case, SMALL FRIES — because that can go in row 3, allowing for much better overall spacing. That ordering would have been just fine for this guy who likes to end the evening with a not-so-MERE TRIFLE of a dessert.
Aaron still made things work, albeit needing the awkward AHUFF LIM in the middle. Not atypical for a squashed set of themers. Exploring alternative possibilities with a 16-wide grid could have been useful.
Excellent SW / NE corners, Aaron squeezing every last drop of color out of his long slots. AFRIKAANS WINTERIZE I CLAUDIUS sure make for some STAR TOURS! When you decide upon an off-beat layout, this is the way to take full advantage of it.
The reader in me enjoyed the story of the mad scientist at a party — neat way to link this set that otherwise would have seemed random. If it had run on a Tuesday or Wednesday, when I'm not expecting something harder and more mind-bending, I might have given it some POW! love.
I'm not cool enough to know what Aimee's parties are like, but I sure appreciated being invited today. All those entries she highlighted mixed together to form an awesome bacchanalian rave. I'll gladly sit in the corner, eating my Japanese lunch dish of choice, TONKATSU, while enjoying the festivities.
Two clues that likely will cause confusion so I'll explain them, and one that amazed:
Friday themeless have the most supply and least demand (from editors as a whole), so the bar has risen incredibly high. Something like NCR crossing RNS wouldn't have caused a second thought ten years ago, but the landscape is different today. OSH is a tough one to accept too, since it's not even a standalone word, just a chunk ripped out of OshKosh B'Gosh.
Aimee's entertaining voice came through so well, through both her entries and clues. Appropriate to have both ADORE and SWOON in the grid. With a few cleanup touches with a revision RASP, it'd have been an easy POW! pick.
Sick-looking grid, indeed! And more to the point, it's one that plays with constructors in a SADISTIC way. It first debuted back in 1997, the great Manny Nosowsky featuring NEVER SAY DIE, and it's been used several times since, Joon Pahk's BEER GOGGLES / GOING STEADY pairing the latest.
(You can hit the gray "Analyze this puzzle" button at the bottom of this page and scroll down to "Identical grids" to find the other instances.)
Billy nailed the center, six for six on excellent marquee entries. PAROLE BOARD got some GENIUS LEVEL cluing. Misdirecting toward a carpool group instead of a group of those who commute sentences … that's criminal-level wordplay.
AW RATS felt appropriate for that top left corner. A classmate of mine used to listen to a lot of WEEZER, so I at least recognized the name, but AH RATS crossing HEEZER seemed equally plausible.
This grid arrangement is so tough to fill because of the SERPENTine nature of its eternal flow, not a dead-end in sight. You never have the luxury of filling one subregion independent of the others. Cleanly incorporating ROB BLIND, PARASITE, BEAR HUG is an excellent result for this layout, but I tend to want to experience more snazzy material in my themeless corners.
You gotta love when a puzzle makes you go whee! It's a lot better than when we used to carry around a fancy potty chair for times when our daughter required the royal wee. Worse yet, a dieu-dieu.
FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE, indeed!
I could use some OUI SHALL OVERCOME positivity during these dark days — I loved that one! I need to figure out how to get to OUI from ennui when my kids suddenly stop eating or drinking certain things. Two gallons of milk that will rot is a lot of LAIT TO WASTE.
REINE, as the French for "queen," is a toughie. So much for those five years of high school French I took. Also, it wasn't great that DIEU for "due" was the only imperfect homophone and a stretch at that.
Perhaps NOUS (new) or MAIS (may) could have worked with Victor's?
I enjoyed the long bonuses Victor pointed out. I did want more wordplay and entertainment in the clues, though. So much oblique deep-dictionary cluing clouded my experience — [Obscure] for CLOUD, indeed. I'd much rather have the clues tipped in the delightful direction of [United group] for AIRCREW. That's the sort of wordplay that keeps me fueled up during a 21x21 solve.
I wondered what all those random circles were for, initially. It turns out they were for initials! Presidential puzzle for Presidents Day.
JFK = JUST FOR KICKS is perfect. Not only is Kennedy commonly referred to by his initials, JUST FOR KICKS is a great phrase. Incredibly difficult letters to work with, too, making JUST FOR KICKS a gem of a discovery.
Also excellent: GOING WAY BACK, for similar reasons. It's not as stellar because Bush the younger was more of a W or Dubya, but GWB works. The letters are easier to work with, too, so there are alternate phrases like GUESS WHOS BACK and GIANT WATER BUG.
HAVING SAID THAT is such a juicy phrase. HST, though … it's in crosswords all the time, including a previous presidential trigram puzzle, but the Wikipedia article doesn't have a single reference to HST.
As fun as it was to get so many themers, it might have been better to drop one. Five longish themers are no (Light Bulb) Joke. The layout automatically forces you to deal with Y??G, which has few possibilities. YANG would be fine, but YEGG is some HST-era crosswordese. I thought Will Shortz would have put it on his dreaded "puzzle-killer" list by now. Also in that region: LIANA, which one can make a case for as reasonable, but I've heard a lot of complaints about it over the years.
Fun debut idea and apt for the holiday. Some tough crossings and inelegances to work out, but that also feels apt given that those are elements to a POTUS's job.
Great concept for 2/22/22! We've done the connect-the-dots (below) to give you the big picture.
Incredibly difficult layout, with those TWO rebuses offering no precious flexibility. It's not nearly as smooth as I want an early-week puzzle to be — FSIX is rarely written out like that, and my having to guess between QANG and QING made my Taiwanese mother SHIRR in embarrassment — but a TUESDAY = TWOSday pun, with so many layers, is a fantastic way to celebrate 2/22/22.
★ I haven't (happily) required this much gestation time to figure out a theme in ages. I hit SIGN FOR DELIVERY halfway through and figured the concept must refer to different kinds of deliveries. GUT FEELING might refer to ... how a method actor delivers lines? THE KICKER had to get at some football term … when the long snapper delivers the ball?
I can hear everyone out there shaking their heads at me. Don't worry, I'm smh at myself. Even with a couple of recent childbirth puzzles, including a fun one from a few months ago, I still got fooled.
After finally figuring things out, I wasn't sure if the phrases were too strained. WATER BREAK is so different from MY WATER BROKE, and even SIGN FOR DELIVERY is a weird way to describe signs of impending childbirth. Being forced to think a little (okay, a lot) about the connections is exactly what made the theme fun and even memorable.
The entertainment didn't end there! To get so much URBAN CAVER (I still haven't been on Seattle's underground tour, but it sounds amazing), MANSPLAINS, ROID RAGE, MIND'S EYE — amazing use of long Down slots! Smart layout, and such care taken to achieve smooth and snazzy results.
Even the mid-lengthers were fun — TAMARI made me smile, as my wife is testing out gluten sensitivity, so I've been experimenting with both TAMARI and liquid aminos. Definitely worth a bit of INU BSS (sorry, dog lovers!)
All this, in a debut? I can't wait to see what Rose will deliver next!
I love a tricksy Thursday that breaks the rules in an innovative, entertaining way. However, plenty of solvers detest Thursday tricks because they're too hard, too kooky, or too rule-breaking. Today's felt like a solid compromise — a theme that employed standard wordplay but was still tough to uncover, in an interesting way.
I appreciated that Jake used a variety of letter modifiers: LONG, HARD, SILENT, CAPITAL. At first, CAPITAL felt like an outlier, but I liked that it introduced something unexpected.
Doubling letters also made for a cool extra layer. It's unusual to come across the II pattern.
Three perfect examples of the kooky phrases, too. [Wight] is an ISLAND containing a LONG I sound. [Crunch bar] starts with a HARD C and is a type of CANDY. I didn't enjoy "Johnny Mnemonic," but it sure is a MOVIE featuring a SILENT M in its title.
CAPITAL SIN didn't ring a bell as strongly as Seven Deadly Sins, but it's a standard term in Christian theology. Sloth starts a sentence here, but since it isn't typically capitalized, I didn't find this answer as cool as the other three.
I enjoy learning terms that are self-explanatory when you study them afterward. SHAKY CAM is exactly what it sounds like. BEG-A-THON made me laugh. I don't know if I'd ever use it in conversation, but it's such an amusing word that I might toss it in.
I didn't know what VELARS meant off the top, but it felt apt to include a sound-related word in this puzzle.
It takes a special kind of non-tricksy Thursday to appeal to me, and this one hit my sweet spot.
Three incredible marquee entries, each having a certain indescribable JE NE SAIS QUOI. Maybe I'm biased because I can pretend to speak some French, BUT THAT'S JUST ME.
And WILL YOU BE QUIET is on a continual loop in my head as I sift through emails like, "too damn clever, Jeff."
Also, my kids are obsessed with "Encanto" but don't know what "off-key" or "volume" means. The clue for ALONE TIME made me laughcry.
They get what's coming to them? I know this one! It should be "people who annoy me"! Sadly, no. Happily, the PAYEES wordplay is fantastic.
Similarly, navel-gazers literally finding LINT made me snicker. Until my son pulled a green fuzz monster out of his belly-button this morning, that is.
I got hung up on what seems to be the UK spelling of PILAF, and the Australian Electoral Commission has denounced Damon as a drongo for using AEC without referring to them, but the amazing headline entries today easily overcame all of that.
GOSPEL TRUTH on top of SEX POSITIVE lying on a DESSERT MENU. Now that's some imagery — talk about EYE OPENERS!
SEX POSITIVE is difficult to clue in a kinky way, ironically requiring a straightforward definition for those unfamiliar with the term. DESSERT MENU, though — whoa! It's a stretch to call the waiter's menu list a "waiting list," but I appreciated the Hollywood-handshake-level wordplay.
Also in that Star Cluer mold is "nonstarter" — that is, a SUB who doesn't start the game.
BATMEN are British military officers' orderlies. Are they multiple Batmans? That's one for the Riddler.
I tripped on KASBAH because of Rock the Casbah, but it was interesting to learn that KASBAH is the preferred spelling.
Solid "stair stack" offering. OUTER SPACE and EYE OPENERS aren't fresh since they've been around since the dawn of the crossworld, and there are some tricky spots, like BONOBOS crossing DOGES. However, some great long Downs crossing the central stack — SO TO SPEAK, US PASSPORT, SLIM TO NONE, and BUTTERCUP are all standouts — helped to juice things up.
The late Merl Reagle was an anagramming savant. I had the fortune to hang out with him at several ACPTs over the years, and it was phenomenal to watch him work. Not just simple anagrams, either — we're talking about double-digit letters. It's appropriate that MERL REAGLE anagrams into MR REAL GLEE.
We've had a slew of anagram crosswords over the years, including many "aptograms," i.e., anagram pairs that mean similar things. It takes a lot for yet another one to stand out, but some of today's findings do just that. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is one of my favorite movies, one I used to watch every December. Seeing it swirled into [True fellow is a find] is almost as magical as the movie's happy ending!
Even better is the fact that this appears to be a novel discovery. If you can easily pull back the curtain and find theme entries off internet lists, so much for the wizard's magic. I wouldn't even know where to begin when it comes to anagramming 17 letters, and I'd probably give up after an hour.
Not all of them wowed me — [M. Ryan, what's her yell?] oddly replaces Meg with M — but I enjoyed this anagramathon much more than I expected. Given his excellent wordplay cluing, too — [Signs in a bookstore] is a fun way to misdirect from GENRE section signs) — I'm on the lookout for more fun from Sheldon.
Repeated trigrams? They must spell something! Okay … OKE ANI THI WOR CHI? Not OKE!
First letters? OAH ... oh, crud.
Middles or finals? KNHOH nuh oh.
EIIRI, that's eerie.
At least I amuse myself.
There are thousands of entries that contain repeated trigrams separated by at least once space. Custom coding can turn them all up, or a simpler RegEx search can do the same thing. I did enjoy that WORDSWORTH was featured in a wordplayish theme. It's fun to say CHINCHILLA, too, such chi-chi sounds.
Given how many possibilities there are, it'd have been great to have some extra element like the repeated letters spelling something, a revealer giving justification for these particular trigrams, or at least a couple of fresher theme answers. Maybe some DOUBLE DRIBBLED fun, or GRUESOME TWOSOMES?
Still, a smooth Monday solving experience.
ADDED NOTE: The HEADline should have been "Jeff oblivious, misses obvious theme." Glad I read Zach and ACME's for context — I would never have figured that out on my own!
Here's the RegEx that finds words that repeat the first three letters later on.