WEDNESDAY PUZZLE – I am always delighted to see Amanda Rafkin and Ross Trudeau appear on the signature of a puzzle. This is their eighth collaboration, but each of their puzzles has been a master class in puzzle building. If you’re a Monday or Tuesday solver looking to break through last week’s puzzles, I think this is a great puzzle to watch. It’s a little tricky, but not sneaky. It’s tough, but in the same way it makes you feel good after a long run.
I loved this theme, for reasons I’ll discuss below to avoid spoilers. Just know that you are going to be in for a treat with this one. There is no wrong clue or answer in there.
10A. “Old fashioned taste? Refers to taking a sip of an old-fashioned drink or alcoholic beverage with whiskey and a sweetener, not someone who enjoys buying antiques.
5D. REW is the abbreviation for rewinding, like on a VCR. FF, in this clue, means fast forward. I have vague memories of my family owning a VCR. By the time I was old enough to remember the movies, however, my family had switched to DVD players, which had triangle-shaped symbols instead of abbreviations. All that to say that I only had this one on crossers, and I had a little facepalm moment when I realized it.
30D. The clue “Lay figure? Refers to a laying hen, not a layman.
45D. The US armed forces have used a gold oak leaf as a badge for a person of the rank of major (lieutenant commander, in the navy) since about the 1830s. They have pronounced colonel like a kernel of popcorn for about as long.
Theme of the day
I am passionate about literature and as such am happy to report that I loved this theme. Ms. Rafkin and Mr. Trudeau gave us four thematic responses and one revealing one. Let’s take a closer look.
At 17-Across, we have the clue, “Clamer for ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities’?”, To which the answer is CRYING WOLFE. “Clamor”, in this case, refers to the weeping wolf. Why is there an E at the end of the wolf, you ask? Well, the author of “The Bonfire of Vanities” is Tom WOLFE.
Let’s look at another theme entry. At 62-Across, we have the clue, “Positive review of a Nancy Drew mystery?” and the answer, PEACHY KEENE. A positive review of something might be PEACHY enthusiastic, then the E is added at the end for Carolyn KEENE, the collective pseudonym of the authors of Nancy Drew’s novels.
We can link the theme responses with the revealer to 38-Across, “Kindle, for example … or a clue on the theme of this puzzle?” And his answer, E READER. The theme of this puzzle takes common sentences and adds the letter “E” to one of the words to replace them with the name of the author of the mentioned books.
I’ve thought a lot about what makes a puzzle difficult or what puts a puzzle in a certain niche in the week. For me, it’s a perfect Wednesday theme, because it’s both a trivia theme and a pun theme. Earlier in the week I felt like I was looking for one or the other, and on Thursdays I usually look for some sort of extra thing, like a rebus. In my busy week, that’s exactly what I’m looking for on a Wednesday: a tough, but fair theme and a nice, clean fill. I look forward to the next collaboration between these two manufacturers, and I hope you are too.
Ross trudeau: None of us are EXTROVERTS, but if you dig our vibe, you can find more Amanda / Ross crossword content on my independent crossword site, Rossword Puzzles, as well as my bi-weekly Twitch feed, Cursewords Live. And if you want to learn how to do crossword puzzles, feel free to slip into my DM Twitter.
Amanda Rafkin: Always a pleasure to make another appearance in The Times! Hope this one brings all of you bookworms some midweek joy!
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The tipping point
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