Jump to: Tricky Clues | Today’s Theme
WEDNESDAY PUZZLE — Congratulations to Dan Caprera, the constructor of the Wednesday puzzle, on his third appearance in the New York Times Crossword. Mr. Caprera’s last puzzle was a real doozy of a Thursday challenge that required solvers to plot their answers on a grid … literally. Today’s puzzle, while not quite so flummoxing, is definitely fun: It features a visual representation of a theme that brought to mind this xkcd cartoon (theme spoiler in the link).
I’ll say more about that theme below, but first, let’s get into some of the tougher clues in this Wednesday grid.
21A. We’ve seen a clue similar to “Diesel found in street racers?” for VIN once before, but it is just as funny the second time. (For those who don’t get the joke: The actor VIN Diesel is famous for his role in the “Fast & Furious” movies, in which he street races.)
34A. I’ve learned from solving crosswords that the “Adult stage in insects” is IMAGO.
52A. The “Site of a terrible fall?” is EDEN — specifically, the Fall of Man.
65A. I loved the clue “Performer who might step on some toes?” for BALLET DANCER — specifically, BALLET DANCERs often “step” on their own toes.
2D. I wasn’t really familiar with the “Building wing” meaning of the word ELL, but some internet research confirmed that the term refers to a wing of a building that runs perpendicular to the main part.
6D. Wow, it has been a long time since the last appearance of AAR, the crossword’s favorite European river and the “Longest river entirely in Switzerland.” It last showed up in a New York Times puzzle in 2017 but, in total, has appeared nearly 300 times.
8D. The clue “When ‘Time Warp’ is sung in the musical ‘The Rocky Horror Show’” isn’t a particularly tricky clue for ACT I, but I wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity to embed a video from “Rocky Horror” in the Wordplay column!
27D. ETO, short for the European Theater of Operations, was a “W.W. II war zone, in brief.”
39D. I had to think about this one for a bit! “Half of D” is CCL, if you’re doing Roman numeral math: D is 500, and CCL is 250.
54D. “It’s bound to be eaten by livestock” is a fun clue for BALE: A hay BALE is bound (typically with baling twine) to transport it to a place to be eaten by livestock.
This puzzle features a neat visual theme in which three alien vessels (the shaded entries) are beaming up three unsuspecting victims (in circled letters). The theme entries all have the same clue (“Science fiction vessel”), and their abductees are embedded in longer words, with clues that end with the sounds they might make upon realizing that they are trapped. All of this is tied together by the revealer at 58A (TRACTOR BEAMS), the clue for which is “Science fiction energy rays that might suck up earthly bodies, as depicted three times in this puzzle.”
First up, at the top of the grid, we have a FLYING SAUCER with a COW (inside the entry SCOW) caught in its TRACTOR BEAM. The clue for SCOW is “Trash hauler [Moooooooo!]”; the “Trash hauler” is the SCOW, but the [Moooooooo!] can only be the sound of an indignant COW on the way to meet its captors.
Next up, we have a MOTHERSHIP abducting a CAR, embedded within the entry BARCAR (“Place for a drink while traveling [Hooooonk!]”). I wanted the [Hooooonk!] to indicate a goose, but in retrospect I can see why a CAR is a more logical target — especially since GEESE appeared elsewhere in the puzzle.
Finally, an unspecified SPACECRAFT caught a MAN in its beam, found within the entry MAGIC MAN (“1976 hit by Heart [Heeeeelp!]”).
I enjoyed the visual elements of this theme, and I hope the alien captors return the COW, CAR and MAN home safely. Now let’s take a look at Mr. Caprera’s reflections.
Remember when we were all talking about aliens a few years ago? That was definitely the inspiration for this one!
There’s lots to like and lots to dislike about this puzzle. It was accepted two years ago, and I still think that, visually, this puzzle is awesome. I really like how the gray squares and the circled letters work together to make an original grid. And I love the New York Times Crossword editorial team’s addition of the various [screams] within the clues. That was such a lovely touch! But, oof, in order to get multiple symmetrical entries with centrally located intersections, both the theme set and the grid layout ended up being absurdly constrained. So my apologies for some of the more egregious uses of crosswordese in this puzzle. Hopefully you all still had a blast!
As always, thanks to The New York Times for taking a chance on one of my submissions — it’s such a huge honor.
Finally, I’ll end this by giving a quick shout-out to my uncle Charlie, my aunt Elise, my cousin Michael and my mom, Anne, who are all daily crossword solvers and will get a kick out of seeing their names in this column!
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