WEDNESDAY PUZZLE — We have a really witty debut today from Adam Nicolle, one of those young guys who does a billion things with boundless energy. I find the differences between Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday themes to be a bit subtle at times, but I think this hits our midweek sweet spot — it’s a bit too heady for a Tuesday, and not quite arcane and abrasive enough for a Thursday. (Sorry, Thursday!)
Mr. Nicolle mentions (perhaps remorsefully?) that the puzzle is completely free of new entries, but it doesn’t feel at all stale and perhaps some solvers will like the omission of 21st-century meme-based neologisms. (Sorry, cool new slang! It’s just nice to get a break once in a while.)
Of course, there is HOLLA, but that’s been around since the 16th century, if you allow for a little leeway in its definition. Otherwise, there were a few trivia names, EARLE, RICE and HORATIO, and a couple of oddball clues that made things a little challenging. (I’d never have guessed SLAW, for example.)
39A: I’ve finished this puzzle and I still see this entry as “tea musa,” or “te amusa” instead of TEAM USA. I was also looking for a country with seven letters and red, white and blue flag colors.
59A: It seems like yesterday — oh, sorry, it seems like two days ago — that Ed Sessa clued “orchard” as an “Apple production site,” to much amusement. Today we get more specific with “Apple’s first location?” Wasn’t that a garage somewhere? Sacrilege! It’s EDEN.
6D: I’d never thought of “Conglomerate” as a verb, to AMASS.
36D: I have a hunch that everyone who edited this clue is a tall glass of milk. Martha Stewart, who knows things, says conventional EYE LEVEL is no more than 57 to 60 inches off the floor. Six feet? Eye level for a giraffe, maybe.
40D: The clues for BED and ARM made me laugh, and this entry, STUPORS, made me worry about Mr. Nicolle, as I’d read recently that almost every teenager is sleep-deprived these days. It’s social media — remember pen pals? These people have hundreds of Instagram pals in every time zone. I wrongly guessed “torpors,” which come along later in life.
There are five theme entries today, each with a string of circled letters. Their clues tip us off that those circled letters are going to mean something — we just have to figure out what. The concept is simple, even though I finished the entire entry at 24A before I realized what said concept was: the execution, however, is really slick and good. This is definitely a trick that looks way easier to pull off than it is.
So, at 24A, our clue is, “Politician that the voters [circled letters] to Congress.” After some critical crosses (SLEEVE, RECIPES, a few others) I knew this had to be REPRESENTATIVES, with “SENT” in bubbles filling in the blank spot of the clue. Neat as a pin, right? Your REPRESENTATIVE is the “Politician that the voters SENT to Congress.”
So let’s try 17A, a short one: “Candy that the lovers [circled letters] on Valentine’s Day.” I wrongly assumed “eat” for that three-letter string of circled letters — close, but wrong tense: The lovers ATE CHOCOLATE.
This is a good example of a theme where it behooves the solver to stop for a moment and try to come up with some entries themselves, because it looks so simple. The trick is, Mr. Nicolle has found truly concealed strings, if that makes any sense. For example, I could very easily say “This guy will [circled letters] your escaped pooch” and have the answer be DOGCATCHER, but that’s using the word “catch” the same way in the entry and the clue, and misses the point.
Of the three entries remaining, my favorite (and I’m sure a crowd pleaser in general) was 45A, “Books that Victorians [circled letters] for cheap.” In this case, the tense didn’t matter — the circled letters are READ in PENNY DREADFULS, which were inexpensive and sensationalistic stories, all the rage in the 19th century. There was actually a recent television series by this name that dramatized a lot of these tales, and I was surprised to see Oscar Wilde’s “Picture of Dorian Gray” among them. This scene is cheesy but it made me jump, just like a good Penny Dreadful.
Sort of an appropriate video, actually, considering our constructor’s age, which I find simply terrifying.
I’m excited to be making my NYT debut! Few things about me: I’m 17 years old. I’m Canadian. It’s been a dream to get a crossword puzzle accepted by the NYT since I was 12. Aside from constructing crosswords, I also perform stand-up comedy and write music. I just really like words, I guess.
I wrote this puzzle back in January. The seed for this theme was LAN[D ROVE]R, but the entry that made this puzzle possible was PENNY D[READ]FULS. I’m glad it was able to get accepted! Looking at the puzzle, I realize I have not made a single debut answer. If I were constructing this puzzle today I would have put more of a priority on interesting non-theme fill. However, I’m still glad with how this turned out overall.
My favorite clues from Will and Joel are [Something most people lie about?] and [Apple’s first location?].
My favorite clue that I wrote is [Headrest for a couch napper, say].
Big thanks to Peter Broda for his amazing word list, as well as to Erik Agard for his feedback on my theme answers. Also, I’d like to give a shout-out to the online crosswording community for being a group of such talented and nice people.
I would also like to use this opportunity to plug my crossword blog “luckystreak xwords” where I post mainly themeless puzzles. My personal favorite so far is “themeless seven,” so if you want a feel for what my puzzles are like I recommend you start there. Thank you!
Lollapuzzoola 12, an annual puzzle tournament in New York City, is open for registration. Organized and hosted by Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer, Lollapuzzoola will take place on Aug. 17; this year the contest is subtitled “Be a Part of the Future” and features puzzles by C.C. Burnikel, Maddie Gillespie, Mike Nothnagel, Paolo Pasco, Doug Peterson, Robyn Weintraub and Stella Zawistowski. If you’re intrigued, even “remotely” (you can solve from home, although “you gotta buy your own pizza”), visit their site for details.
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