SATURDAY PUZZLE — This is a connoisseur’s grid that will also please the rest of us, which is no surprise considering it comes from Sid Sivakumar. I did not pick up on the seriously low word count until I read the Constructor Notes — after all this time solving, I think I might have to try constructing a grid or two myself, to hone my eye — but I did note the cavalcade of artful crossings and tough clues.
There’s one name debut in this puzzle: the actress Noomi RAPACE, whose performances as Lisbeth Salander were quite memorable to me but whose name wasn’t close to the tip of my tongue. There are also some wonderfully tricky clues for simple stuff — “Joins a heavy metal band, say” for WELDS; “What might collect a lot of checks” for LISTS; “They can be graphic” for T-SHIRTS.
Speaking of T-SHIRTS, I opted for “wormhole” instead of TIME WARP for the “Travel aid in science fiction,” which screwed up my northwest corner — a demoralizing turn of events. But otherwise, I spent more time standing still than going in the wrong direction.
9A. This is indeed a “Classic musical,” one that opened on Broadway in 1966 and inspired a classic movie starring Lucille Ball, but MAME has been absent from the New York Times Crossword for a couple of years and it’s always a good idea to bring up Angela Lansbury whenever possible — she starred in the original production.
51A. Pet evolution clearly favors the fluffy; the HAMSTER at 33D, which reads into this entry, gets a wheel and a faddish toy. Meanwhile, a “Jumble” is dismissed as a RATS’ NEST (rats are apparently friendlier, too).
8D. “They don’t know what they’re talking about” might seem like a darling clue to most of you, but I worry that it’s going to enrage the PARROTS who solved this puzzle as part of their enrichment programs in comparative psychology. We’ll get letters!
28D. This “Certain crossbred lap dog” is a new-to-me debut that I assumed was a cute synonym for a “Yorkie poo,” a Yorkshire terrier crossed with a poodle (which is sort of like a liger or a tigon). But a PORKIE is actually a mix of a Pomeranian and a Yorkie (and is also called a “Yoranian,” which sounds both alien and radioactive).
34D. An “Abrupt change in tone, perhaps” usually indicates a conversation gone wrong (or right, I suppose, although unfortunately that seems less common). In this case, the reference is physical: a TAN LINE on a non-nude, non-sunscreen-slathered sunbather.
Themeless grids with 62 words are tough to construct, and even tougher to get published these days. Modern 70- and 72-word themelesses are favored by editors, as they’re typically livelier, cleaner and more accessible than grids with lower word counts. But those who enjoy solving this genre of puzzle might have noticed a rare occurrence this weekend: Blake Slonecker’s puzzle from yesterday and mine today each have 62 answer words. (That hasn’t happened in The Times since 2017, when Patrick Berry and Jeff Chen had back-to-back 62-word jaunts.)
To create this puzzle, I started with the grid pattern, inspired by Nam Jin Yoon’s themelesses with off-center stair stacks. This layout allowed me to tinker with the top-left and bottom-right corners independently, but left open extra corridors (26-Across and 33-Across here) for solvers to access each region. After finding some corner options I liked, I tested them pairwise for compatibility. Eventually, I hit upon a combination that glued together seamlessly with other nice answers, forming the grid you see today.
This puzzle is dedicated to my love Mahima, to whom I’m getting married this Friday, and to our families and friends with whom we’ll be celebrating, as the glue that seamlessly keeps us all together.
source: The New York Times