It's not only a Big EZ working with Lisa, but an immense pleasure. Two of the most important qualities in new constructors are listening to and processing feedback, and the dedication to grind through hard work. Lisa is exemplary in both areas, as far from a BZZT from me as possible.
It's such a delight to help someone so deserving make her debut today.
I spend a crazy amount of time looking for interesting letter pattern discoveries, so I rarely happen upon one whose category I've never even considered. There are three capitals overlapping in CAIRO ROME MEXICO, a three US state smash-up in OHIO IOWA WASHINGTON, and three countries jammed into PANAMA MALI LITHUANIA — triply cool. It's a neat touch that all the middle entries are four letters long and that each one of them splits in half for the overlap.
I wasn't sure what was going on at first since CAIROMEXICOCITY looks simply like CAIRO MEXICOCITY. Perhaps highlighting ROME would have heightened the a-ha: CAIROMEXICOCITY, preventing ROME from getting lost in the shuffle.
Excellent bonuses in the grid, too. With only three themers (the norm is four or five these days), I expect at least four long bonus entries. Note how wisely Dylan spaced these out: EL DORADO, MON CHERI, and MINT OREO, yum!
Dylan could have arranged his black squares to have only MINT OREO, and that would have been more than fine. But he didn't stop there — OKAY THEN sure makes for a fun addition. I appreciate the extra mile effort, especially because it's not at all a simple task, what with the adjacent long Downs both crossing two themers.
I love lexical oddities. If the presentation had been a little different, helping the discoveries stand out better, this would have been in POW! territory.
JUST ADD WATER, now that's my kind of cooking, especially when it's one of my nights to make dinner and at the eleventh hour I need a miracle. Simple.
Unlike how to solve this puzzle. I started by writing in an HHO rebus — this has been done before, so that felt right. Except it wasn't. HIG(H HOLIDAYS), yes! BA(HHO)GY pants, no. I eventually figured out that the Across themers needed the HHO, whereas the Downs didn't.
How to write that in, though? I eventually settled on (G/HHO), all jammed into the tiny square. The anticipation of all the questions I'm going to get about how to properly enter the answers to keep a solving streak alive … it's enough to make my eyes water.
Solving logistics aside, I enjoyed the evocative and entertaining theme answers. HIGH HOLIDAYS with blaring FRENCH HORNS at BEACH HOUSES at the ELEVENTH HOUR made for a fun image.
Solid bonuses, too. The gridding task isn't as challenging as the solving task since you can enter HIG(H HOLIDAYS) simply as HIHLIDAYS and fill normally. Still, such excellent color in the corners: DRAG RACES run by DEMENTORs wearing STETSONs would be fun entertainment during the HIGH HOLIDAYS.
ESSENTIAL WORKER! Neat to see our pandemic heroes get a shout-out. I also enjoyed the marvelous symmetry of MRS MAISEL and MR SANDMAN. Now that's a show I would watch!
Not as sure I'd tune in for a DOCUSOAP. I get that it's a cross between a documentary and a soap, but I'd be almost as embarrassed to use the term as to admit to watching "Jersey Shore."
I wish there had been more juice packed into the corners — REVERENCE and TREE-LINED are fine entries, but not as jazzy as a Friday calls for. Along with SAD SONGS, REEDITS oddball, and a patch of green MOULD, I had some hesitations. Neat triplet of central Across features, though.
★ Another beaut from Nam Jin! I've seen thousands of grid patterns over the years, so it takes something special for me to notice. This grid, symmetrical across a diagonal line from NW to SE, with a wide-open layout, certainly qualifies. If you tilt your head, it almost looks like the CONE OF SILENCE.
FORGET ABOUT IT isn't as memorable as FUHGEDDABOUDIT, but it sure is easier to spell. And given that what I seek above all else in crosswords is ten minutes of forget-my-worries bliss, FRIENDLY BANTER is such a CRÈME DE LA CRÈME entry.
Clever repurposing of "needle exchange," too, as in two friends good-naturedly needling each other.
I didn't get a few clues:
So much delightfulness in black square aesthetics, marquee entries, and clever cluing, all in a nearly squeaky-clean grid. Couldn't ask for much more than that.
PARLOR TRICK, what a delightful title for a PANCHINKO puzzle! I stepped inside a PACHINKO parlor once during a business trip to Tokyo. I immediately clapped my hands to my ears against the deafening din of metal balls plinking to the background of electronically-generated background beeps. Even then, I couldn't help but watch through the window, mesmerized by the random paths of those steel BBs.
I wish the O balls weren't circled. Once I got the first few, I figured the rest might also be Os, and that was that. I'd have enjoyed uncovering the path much more, like in a repeated I string puzzle from years ago.
The grid is immaculately clean, nearly free of gluey short fill. That's an amazing feat, given that even the most experienced constructors need some gloops to hold a Sunday 140-word puzzle together. Even more impressive, given that the Os take away so much flexibility, "triple-checking" so many squares (having to work with Across, Down, and diagonal directions).
There's usually some trade-off required though, and there was some tough vocab sprinkled throughout. I can figure out (ish) what an ISOPOD and a PHONEME are from etymology. ALVEOLAR … related to alveoli? Sort of. Ish. The SACHER torte tasted vaguely familiar to this "Great British Bake-off" fanatic. Not so much Giovanni Battista TIEPOLO or the kitten's TOE BEAN.
I appreciated the effort to do something different, and even more so, visually appealing. High marks for replication of the PACHINKO experience, along with some dings for the mixture of way-too-easy and incredibly difficult aspects of the solve.
JELLIED EEL … that does seem like REVENGE! I wonder if it'd be any more appetizing served hot.
It's rare to have vertical grid-spanners as fill, and I can't remember the last time a theme revealer was presented like REVENGE IS A DISH / BEST SERVED COLD. I appreciate the novelty.
I didn't understand what REVENGE had to do with anything, though. If we're simply talking about things that are served cold, there are hundreds of options to choose from, which makes the selections feel arbitrary.
That huge flexibility is important if you want to intersect the dishes into the revealer — and Sam did a wonderful job of interlocking everything together — but I wanted something more out of the theme than meshed theme answers.
(Note that some people adore themer interlock; Will Shortz tends in that direction.)
How delicious would it have been if this featured all cold dishes … dished up in famous murders! Doesn't it seem like Poirot would have investigated many murders-by-aspic? Surely an evildoer deviled Lupin with deviled eggs?
*five-hour timesuck of Jeff falling down Agatha Christie and Maurice Leblanc rabbit holes*
Neat debut, with memorable grid design. I even liked the wriggly eel of black squares in the center of the grid, made possible by the off-size 14x15 dimensions.
I'm ceding all my space today to Mary Lou, who has a lot of great material to present!
If you asked me, could Peter come up with four entries whose meanings change drastically with an apostrophe? I'd answer absolutely, HE'LL IF I KNOW him.
I was going to make a joke about apostrophizing, which has a dictionary definition of address an exclamatory passage in a speech or poem to (someone or something), but since I still don't understand that sentence after the eighth reading, I should never have started this paragraph.
Kudos for the EGG SHE'LL PAINT and WE'RE WOLVES finds. The additions of spaces makes these more interesting than the simpler changes of LETS to LET'S and I.D. to I'D.
Grammar and punctuation aren't for everyone (Jim Horne loves it!), so the bonuses were appreciated. RITZ BITS and GUESS WHO are so colorful. GETTYSBURG is laden with imagery. Excellent mid-length material, too, AZALEAS, ZIPLOC, GODSONS, even YAKUTSK scratching at this gamer's long-ago memory. Not entries you see every day! Like ADULT MOVIE.
No, I didn't mean it like that! Only that ADULT MOVIE has been in the NYT before; I wasn't saying that—
LET'S DROP this post right here.
As someone who's had three careers in vastly different spaces, I loved today's suggestion to SWITCH JOBS. Dancers too burnt out to BUST A MOVE? Why not go into museum curation and MOVE A BUST? Negotiating can be one of the most draining parts of business development, so try something new and STRIKE A DEAL with the Pro Bowling Association to DEAL A STRIKE.
I wasn't as amused by TRAIN A RIDE and PLANE A BOARD. Since when is it a job to be a train or plane passenger? I'd have liked the latter much more if the clue had referred to the person in charge of boarding the plane. You know, the … boarderperson.
The flight manager?
Now I see why John and Will Shortz chose to simply go with "flying."
I didn't notice the plethora of themers as I solved, so I'm glad I took a second glance. Six themers is rarely easy to grid around, and there's remarkably little glue, given the constraints. The Latin HAEC is a deep cut, but a bit of ICI here and some crying OYEZ ain't bad.
I hardly noticed these dings, what with so many great long bonuses like PLASTIQUE / PHYSIQUE and excellent mid-lengthers of the SUB SHOP variety. Perhaps a layout where all the themers ran horizontally would have emphasized them more, but I can see the merits in this more unconventional approach.
It's too simple a concept for what I seek in a Thursday puzzle, but kudos to John for uncovering so many switches involving two jobs from wildly different industries.
There's no DEFINITE MAYBE about it; Robyn's byline always brings me joy. Her philosophy of building crosswords to entertain and distract from the woes of the world resonates so strongly. She's got an incredible knack for incorporating colorful and smile-inducing phrases like FINE DINING and I HAVE TO RUN.
Not only do her feature entries work great on their own, but she combines them in fun ways. I picked up a love for deals from my Taiwanese mother, so COUPON CODE over BONUS ROUND = yes please!
(The Amazon Fresh store that's now sent me over $500 worth of "buy $25 worth of groceries and save $10" coupons might want to rethink their approach. But don't tell them that.)
BRIDGE LOAN is a neat term, self-explanatory even to non-MBAS — since they bridge the potential chasm caused by a cash crunch.
And as someone who's cut up a ton of cantaloupe, MELONBALLER crossing ORANGE made me grin.
Even having been in charge of payrolls, I couldn't exactly remember FICA or what it stood for, and I did wonder for a minute if it was ANA or INA de Armas. No other pauses, though. I'm so impressed at the arc of Robyn's constructing career, her puzzles regularly exhibiting both color and cleanliness these days — in exemplary fashion.
My climbing gym employs a team of route-setters who collectively have a huge range of abilities. Back when I was going every day (I hope to return soon!), I could figure out many Tyson V6s because his areas of strength are similar to mine (albeit an order of magnitude higher).
Yet I sometimes would work on a Meg V4 for weeks, never linking the whole thing up before she took it down. Her route might call for a Gaston, or a undercling pinch, or a slopey fingerpocket. These are techniques that other climbers with different body types can easily do, but I barely can recognize the terms, much less accomplish them.
You'd think that I'd avoid Meg's routes and stick to Tyson's only, and that's what I did in my early days. But as my skills grew, I realized that working my ass off on Meg's routes gave me more satisfaction as a whole, because not only was the feeling of achievement greater (when I could finish one), but I became a better climber through the process. Looking back on it, she always was careful to make every route both fair and achievable.
Although I still get more pure joy out of Tyson's routes, I've learned to appreciate Meg's well-thought-out, high-quality work.
★ What a neat variety of "literal wordplay" tricks! I love that not one of them exactly repeats:
I had to work hard to dig up all eight hidden gems, and although there were frustrations along the way, I stretched my brain to its max, having to think in all sorts of different styles, and eventually crossed the finish line.
All that, with only a single short fill ding in PSA? Considering that the Sunday average is about ten gluey bits, that's amazing.
Heck yeah, I SEE WHAT (you) DID THERE — dozens of painstaking iterations to finally arrive at this high-quality product. Can't wait to see what LIEs AHEAD for this pair.
I was raised mainly by TV sitcoms, but I only knew Urkel, to whom I owe my debonair style. In his Stephan Urquelle form! Did I really have to specify that?!
Given that I'm using suspenders to hold up my sweatpants as I type this, maybe so.
Since I watched roughly thirty hours of TV a day as a kid, you might think it's odd that I skipped "Full House" and "Home Improvement." The former was too wholesome for me — give me Three's Company over three dads any day — while I never understood the appeal of a home improvement show, much less a show about a home improvement show.
Does it say something that Wikipedia only has a dedicated entry to URKEL, not the others? Maybe.
Four themers of 10 12 12 10 is nearly ideal for crossword gridding, setting up high expectations for ultra-cleanliness along with at least four great pieces of bonus fill. Reasonable debut effort, with EYESIGHT and COWGIRLS adding to the HOODOO, although you shouldn't need gluey bits like IES OUT IN out in a grid like this. It's better to have more than one entry leading into a subregion, too, so the solving flow to the SW / NE could have been better.
There's a neat idea here, with famous (to some) neighbors answering FRED ROGERS' tagline question. The exact presentation didn't resonate with me, though, since FRED ROGERS' clue didn't use "Won't you be my neighbor?" However, it was still fun to reminisce about my dad, Carl Winslow.
Oops. Did I do that?
This puzzle … IT'S THE PITS! No, not like that. Each of GREEN OILVE, CASINO FLOOR, NASCAR TRACK, and CONCERT HALL has a pit. Neat how different the PIT of an olive is from that of a concert hall.
I enjoy "what connects these seemingly disparate themers?" puzzles. The best ones draw from four or more vastly different concepts. Today's didn't floor me as others have, because the sense of "pit" for CASINO FLOOR, NASCAR TRACK, and CONCERT HALL are all on the same track; their meanings largely in concert.
A great revealer also can help elevate within this tried-and-true genre, and IT'S THE PITS almost gets there. It jarred me, though, since the grammar is tortured. I'd have preferred simply THE PITS as the revealer, which also might have opened up room for something related to a barbecue PIT. Maybe BBQ JOINT? PIG ROAST?
Kicking off a grid with ESTE — foreign words is a category on most editors' specs sheets — isn't great. Several editors have also made me shy away from using TSETSE since it feels like a partial without fly. I did appreciate the bonuses of ARE YOU OK / WARZONE, NANNYCAM, HOT DATE, RAISMAN, but I'm not sure the prices were worth it.
I did laugh at BOOB AMA (short for Reddit Ask Me Anything). Will Shortz is letting all sorts of envelope-pushing entries go through these days!
Oh. BO OBAMA? I knew that.
Not my favorite example of this genre because the meanings weren't different enough, but it was still a fun solve.
DUCK! No, not TAKE COVER. In the center of the grid. Neat grid art, unquestionably a rubber duckie. It's tough to create apt images when working with huge pixels AND conform to crossword rules, but this one is spot-on.
I also appreciated that Joseph kept grid symmetry around the perimeter. Grid asymmetry usually jars me, so retaining some semblance of elegance helped keep my head on straight.
It wasn't as much fun to solve as to aesthetically appreciate, though, since the "what other DUCK definitions could there be" game got to be a slog. I liked the occasional [___ DUCK] or [Something a duck lays] to help break up the monotony of simply [Duck].
I did love the GOOSE at the end of the puzzle. Hopefully, solvers catch that nod to the childhood game.
Memorable debut, with solid efforts to build a grid around a severely constraining central image.
A person who can do everything from theme-storm to code at a high level to put solvers' needs above his own? All the while making the process fun? Dan is a dream to work with.
Plus, he pushes through my obsessiveness with a smile. Let's say tolerates. Call it a non-frown. Okay, he doesn't toss me out on my bum.
I used to be a huge fan of "The Simpsons," so when he proposed this general concept, I enjoyed the throwback to Bette Midler's It's time to TAKE OUT THE TRASH.
Usually, I'm the one doing all the coding in a collaboration, so it was a great change of pace that Dan has programming chops. With two nerds on the case, algorithmically testing out different synonyms for trash didn't at all make me feel down in the dumps.
I know, that was rotten.
Impressive set of marquee entries. I love how so many delightful long entries weave through each other, from north to south, from West Coast to East: ON TIPPY TOE through ON THE BACKBURNER through I CAN RELATE, STARTER KIT, and WANNA TRADE. Everywhere I looked, there was fantastic material.
Editors tend to favor multi-word entries for their colorful potential, so DISAPPEAR usually wouldn't get a plus. However, mixing DISAPPEAR / BEST CHANCE / ONE AT A TIME has a fun carnival magic ACT feel to it. I sure will step right up!
I enjoyed much of the cluing. As the nefarious one between me and my identical twin brother, I approve of the EVIL clue. CROSS PRODUCTS also gave me a big smile, since I'm in the middle of teaching my kids about statistics and probabilities. We definitely do not use PENS — lots of erasing required!
And the gold medal-winner: [Garden variety?] What sly usage of a garden-variety phrase to point at an HERB. Now that's tasty!
I could have used more clues that gave me Friday-level joy, though. In some cases, I figured out what the answer must be, but the clue took a long while to click:
An enjoyable Friday solve overall. NO SLOUCH, indeed.
★ I wish I could do even half what Ryan can. This TECH NERD feels like he LIVES A LIE when admiring a construction that frankly is beyond his talent. Ryan is one of the rare constructors who inspires me to further develop my ARTILLERY of tools so that one day, I might be able to create an ultra-low-word-count masterpiece like this. The gigantic swath of white in the middle ... jaw-dropping, with its amazingly colorful and clean fill. It feels like it breaks several laws of physics.
Some youngsters might balk at the old-timey LON CHANEY, but there are a lot of solvers out there who might even remember when his movies were in theaters. And when you combine it with [Count ___] — misdirecting away from CHOCULA — that's bloody awesome.
Back in my days of being single, I could always be trusted to regale my married friends with tales. Mostly of woe, but of the 180 first dates I went on, there were some funny moments. Like with the arsonist. She was en fuego, but ultimately she wasn't a good match.
Thankfully, Brad's jokes are funnier than mine. An atheist HAD NO PRAYER, the couch potato who DIDN'T WORK OUT, those are good for a chuckle. I appreciated that Brad spun these one-liners into a cohesive story that had a beginning, middle, and who wouldn't like that a magician DID THE TRICK as a happy ending?
I also dug so much of the extras Brad worked in. Bonuses like LIKE HELL IT IS! and the ALL STAR BREAK can do wonders for solvers not digging the theme. (Although, this year's dunk contest was full of JELLO SHOTs. Yikes.)
Amazing gridwork, too, especially considering Brad dipped into sub-140 territory. Doing that with only minor ETES RTE SNO dings is a feat requiring tireless iteration.
Like so many first dates, this theme wasn't a potential-future-spouse-level experience, but I'd have happily gone out with Brad again. Maybe even enjoy making a new friend.
"Hidden words" puzzles are a tough sell these days, Will Shortz is getting a ton of these types of submissions. When John approached me about doing one using reversed words, I didn't have much hope it would go anywhere. But why not take a look?
As a solver, I'm most impressed by long hidden words, so I took the brute force approach of sifting through all possible medium-length words (5+ letters) to see if they were hidden inside any long (8+ letters) entries from the XWord Info Word List. After my computer nearly passed out from heatstroke, we had a long list to sift through.
There was a lot of dull stuff, but one line item caught my eye: ADELE, hidden backward in CHISELED ABS. Even this pop culture idiot knows ADELE! Once John suggested BACKUP SINGERS, it felt like we were onto something.
Thank goodness John is more well-versed in pop music since I wouldn't have recognized LORDE and DRAKE if they knighted or quacked at me.
Oh, the irony of this puzzle!
You have to have a good reason to break a crossword rule and an even better reason if you're going to break two of them. Why unchecked letters? It's elementary; the two circled letters spelling out F E, the chemical symbol for IRON. Perfect.
No duplicated words within a grid? It is fitting that today's two magnets attracted a pair of IRONs apiece.
I didn't buy the second rule breakage as much, though, since it was so repetitive to uncover all those IRONs. Would it have been better ... to use themers that started or ended with FE instead? That would have eliminated the dupes, but I'm not sure solvers would have even noticed why a BUTCHERS KNIFE or a BANK SAFE would be stuck on.
Perhaps items that typically stick to magnets, like NAIL POLISH? FDA FILINGS? Again, that would have gone over some solvers' heads.
I love me some grid art, especially built out of black squares, and the horseshoe magnets are distinctive. I didn't find myself magnetically drawn to the execution because of the IRON overdose, but it's a reasonable choice that more solvers are likely to appreciate.
Two vastly different meanings of FLIP-FLOP give me pleasure: the comfy footwear that 80-HD wears and the logic circuit I used to rely on back in my engineering days. A single electronic flip-flop is not so useful, but when you combine dozens or hundreds of them, they can make amazing robots … like 80-HD.
Maybe not so vastly different. I flip-flop my statement.
I appreciate the elegance in featuring two each of FLIP, FLOP, and FLIP-FLOP. Much better than three FLIPS, a FLOP, and a FLIP-FLOP flipped over a FLOP.
It would have been more satisfying, though, if all the themers had been in-the-language phrases. It's a lot of work to uncover themers when the clues don't give you much information. All that work, and all I got was this lousy CASUAL SANDAL? No thanks. A dry dictionary definition isn't an epic fail, but it's not nearly as enjoyable as EPIC FAIL.
Will Shortz doesn't take many "themers are all different definitions of a single clued word" puzzle, so you need something extra to get over the high bar. I like the FLIP + FLIP + FLIP-FLOP element, but there was potential left on the table. With all these flippety flippers, I can envision some backwards entries, some upside-down, even some head-breaking chaos. FLIP-FLOP is so full of wordplay possibilities; it'd have been fun to brainstorm.
★ The NYT has published hundreds of rebuses now, so you have to raise the bar to get an acceptance. That's precisely what Jess does today! Well, not exactly. It's more than a literal RAISED THE BAR, and it's one step above a BAR rebus. In fact, it's exactly one step up!
An example, to clarify: RAIN (BAR)RELS / (BAR)ISTA both contain the BAR rebus. But wait, there's more! Under RAIN (BAR)RELS lurks SUSHI. SUSHI is not a [Place to order sake and sashimi], but a SUSHI (BAR) is — the BAR is "raised" at the end of that entry.
I could use some sake now, for heaven's sake.
Even the RAISE THE (BAR) revealer gets into the game, crossing CA(BAR)ET, with DIVE (BAR) hiding underneath. Neat to get these triple-theme answer sets.
And I'd totally go to a place that's a cross between a CABARET and a DIVE BAR.
Pairs of crossing themers make filling a bear. Tucking a third themer in amps up the difficulty by much more than 50%, even if that third themer is short. Good thing that Jess had a ton of flexibility; able to test out many possibilities under DISEM(BAR)KED: TASK, MINI, DIVE, or even CASH, CLAM, CLIF, CROW, etc.
I would have loved for all the bars to make no sense with their clues, like SUSHI. A [Shabby establishment] is a DIVE, so I didn't notice anything odd. CROW clued as [Device for applying leverage] would have been a much more interesting needle-scratcher, for example.
Overall, I appreciate Jess's efforts to add a unique extra layer, greatly enjoying the delayed secondary a-ha of figuring out SUSHI + BAR. And I'll raise a glass to those hidden MINI and DIVE BARs, because I love having my spirits lifted.
So much for raising the bar.
LOVE CONQUERS ALL and HATERS GONNA HATE? No love/hate relationship there, just a fantastic pairing. Work in LEAD A DOUBLE LIFE and run QUICK QUESTION through them, and that helluva themeless backbone nearly conquers all.
Some brilliant clues, too. [They might help with the dishes] one day would be MY KIDS if the clue more accurately read [They might help break dishes]. I fall for ENAMEL as a canine coat all the time, but (dental) [Crown topper] amps it up.
A lot of personality in some clues, too. As Evans mentioned, neat UTAH shout out with "Greatest Snow on Earth." We finance types often make fun of marketers, but I'd cut a big check to whoever came up with that.
This hater's gonna hate on some short entries, though. Some editors are phasing out SST, as the fleet was phased out decades ago. I've read a ton of contracts in my day; can't remember coming across NISI. I'm tolerant of a lot of A- words, but ABED is not among them — unless we're talking about one of my favorite TV characters.
I'm a huge fan of wide-open grid flow, but I bet some of the issues could have been smoothed out by closing off the region around SST. Isolating the SE a little more would likely have made it possible to jazz up the EXCAVATE DIAMETER slots, too.
Although, I really dug the effort to elevate the potentially snoozy one-word entries, with [Really dig] as a literal description of EXCAVATE.
A POW!-level of marquees headlining today's puzzle, and Friday-fun cluing, too. One round of rejiggering, and this would have been outstanding.
I haven't seen such a fresh trio of marquee central answers in ages. All of them are NYT debuts, and only one was already in our XWI Word List. REAL ORIGINAL, dripping with sarcasm, is ironically really original. Although I didn't recognize CUDDLE PUDDLE, it's easily understandable. Plus, squee-worthy animals!
Great material in the lower left and upper right corners, too. Themelesses are all about making the most of your precious long slots, and CHEM LAB / CUT LOOSE / ADMIT ONE are all excellent. Not only are they the kind of colorful multi-word phrases that editors prize, but they're ripe for clever cluing. This chem dork loves the misdirect away from solutions and solutes.
Not quite as much zing in the opening corner, unfortunately. I appreciate the effort to make BRANDISH sing, but the image of people waving guns in the air is not so appealing given current events. The oldie MR SANDMAN makes its second appearance in less than a month, too — although that does make SEE DOUBLE apt.
Attempting to forestall the questions I'm bound to get:
(American Dental Association on a toothpaste tube.)
A lot of fun packed into this Friday-ish grid, mixed with some kick-it-up-a-notch Saturday-level clues. It's ironic that disgusting NONPAREIL candies mean "without parallel." I'm going to have some words with our French friends about that …
Today's PYRAMID scheme sucked me in almost as much the one back in 2015. Jill and I didn't get to enter the Great Pyramid back in 2010, but descending into the depths of a minor one was still memorable. Although the suffocating air was infused with centuries of decay, it was worth the claustrophobic sensation that we could be buried alive at any moment. You can't get much closer to reliving the SEVEN WONDERS / OF THE / ANCIENT WORLD.
Such meticulous gridwork, too, is worthy of the Egyptians and their precise building techniques. Diagonal theme entries take away flexibility and cause grid problems. It was smart thinking to separate the letters around PYRAMID with a pyramid of black squares.
The theme felt thin at first, but on second glance, I noted several shorter but also important entries: the KINGS / CHAMBER where CHEOPS / KHUFU is entombed, THREE chambers, LIMESTONE.
It was enough to make it feel worthy of the expanded Sunday palette and much more memorable than the average Sunday fare that doesn't always hold my attention. If there had been a more unusual mechanism to hint at the buried KHUFU letters or a way for the circled letters not to make the theme so obvious, this would have been my easy POW! pick.
★ Five factors make this not just an easy POW! pick, but a paragon of Monday perfection.
Interesting theme. I had to go back nearly a decade to think of a Monday puzzle that had a similar feel. Not only are the theme phrases colorful, but they point perfectly to their "symbolic" clues. Q.U.E.U.E.S. as a DOTTED LINE makes me smile.
Consistency. Each themer is in the form of (adjective)(noun). Each clue contains six letters. Elegant! Consistency by itself cannot make a boring theme interesting, but it can make a great theme that much better.
Amazing bonus fill. Six long Downs spread out in alternating fashion, up down up down up down. Six long Downs, not an iffy one among them. No CUSS WORDs from me, just a giddyup, ALL ABOARD!
Short fill so smooth that it's unnoticeable. A mark of true grit. Most constructors would settle on six long Downs that worked(ish), and then they'd look the other way to get a final corner glooped together. Not a single dab of crossword glue for Leslie, showing iteration striving for perfection.
Fresh cluing. GELS has been in the NYT crossword 50 times. This is the first time it's been clued using "nail polish." Tying together two consecutive entries in BROOD and HEN was a nice touch, too.
Top-notch puzzle to hook newbs, as well as to remind ennui-ridden veterans that even early-weekers can spark joy.
I've done so many crosswords over the decades that it's rare to encounter a theme I can't immediately classify into an established genre. I love Jamey's angle, places that are the home of a certain industry. Don't worry, I didn't recognize the term metonym either!
I would have shrugged off this concept if it had been proposed to me, because it wouldn't have seemed possible to come up with enough possibilities to flesh out a crossword theme. And even if there had been enough, how could there possibly be any great phrases worthy of being themers? Don't forget about crossword symmetry!
All those knocks against it, and I'd have filed it away and never thought about it again. Glad Jamey stuck to it!
SILICON VALLEY and MADISON AVENUE are awesome headliners. Both are fantastic multi-word phrases that evoke all sorts of imagery. Amazing that they just happen to be the exact same length.
K STREET, NASHVILLE, DETROIT, and HOLLYWOOD aren't exactly entries that would win check marks on their own right, but they work fine.
It'd have been great to have some revealer — BUSINESS CENTERS didn't seem quite right, but perhaps the likes of IT'S WHERE IT'S AT? It'd be fun to brainstorm on that.
Even without a perfect revealer, the theme works well enough as is; a breath of fresh air in the piles and piles of crosswords drawing from well-trodden genres.
Such a funny image, ABRAHAM Lincoln LINKIN to web pages. I wonder what he would have linked to after having his accomplishments trumped? Great spelling change, too, much more interesting than a simple EN to IN replacement.
Today's theme wasn't as interesting as other elision themes, though. For example, FOUR AND TWENTY to FOREIGN TWENTY had such a creative leap. Interesting to refresh my memory that David considered WARREN PEACE, echoed today.
When it comes to the trade-offs between color and cleanliness, there are opposing schools of thought. Patrick Berry leads one side, eschewing any sniff of glue even if it means his bonuses aren't that snazzy. He more than makes up for it in clever cluing.
The other approach is much more lenient with short answers that are clearly called out on editors' specs sheets, like ECU, ELO, RMS. I used to like SYSOP long ago, but so many IT people have criticized it recently that I lowered its score in our XWord Info Wordlist. Are all these dings worth the haloed ARCHANGEL, MR FREEZE singing on his ice skates, a fortune brought on by a MONEY TREE?
As with so much in crosswords, there's no objectively right or wrong answer. I tend more toward the Berry camp, but I also ironically loved NITPICKY.
(Note that you can make the grid much easier to fill cleanly by breaking up ARCHANGEL at the NITPICKY crossing. Eliminates ARCHANGEL, though, and we at XWord Info love our ANGELs.)
I have a truly marvelous explanation of this theme which the margin is too narrow to contain!
I'm glad it's been almost a year since the last outside the grid puzzle — spacing them out helps keep the concept fresh. There are so many now that we've put together yet another puzzle page. Because our home page isn't enough of a link salad yet.
I'm engrossed in Ollie's new book, Seven Games, so kicking off the grid with (M)ATED tickled me. So many other fun touches, too, like ATARI not clued as the video game company, but the Go reference.
There's a trick to constructing a grid like this: instead of starting with a 15x16 grid (note that it's 16 tall, to accommodate perfect spacing of M A R G I N), start with a 17x16. Put M A R G I N in columns 1 and 7, then black out all the remaining squares in those columns. Proceed to fill as usual.
Because ANNOTATION and MARGINALIA are the only real themers, there's a ton of filling flexibility. I appreciated that Oliver took advantage of this to make some of his theme answers sing — ART TEACHER, PGA TOUR, DRY MARTINI — and squeeze a ton of color into the long fill. It almost has a themeless feel, with so much DR TEETH, B PICTURE, HOME TEAM, OPEN MRIS.
Because we've seen so many "write outside the grid" themes by now, it did feel thin in theme density. I'd also have liked something more playful, since MARGINALIA pointing to two M A R G I Ns in the margins felt repetitive. I'd have loved some riff on Pascal's note, or perhaps an extra layer, like MARGINALLY hinting at F R I E N D and P A I S A N in the margins.
However, there was a lot of fill to enjoy, including a devious 1-Across clue that fit perfectly with both MATED and MATE, the latter of which I confidently dropped in. And I can't recommend Ollie's book highly enough! If you thought that checkers was a silly kids' game, Ollie's piece about the world's greatest checkers player was a page turner.