MONDAY PUZZLE — I’m exhausted from all the fun, sorry, work I had to do over the weekend at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. But to paraphrase Newman from “Seinfeld,” the puzzles never stop, my friends. There will always be themes to crack and columns to write. Thank goodness.
A pair of veteran constructors, Kevin Christian and Andrea Carla Michaels, are back with a long-playing theme that goes quickly and smoothly. If you catch my drift.
This is a very smooth and straightforward clue set and, in all likelihood, you won’t need my help with it. But in the spirit of “never say never,” here are a few that stood out to me.
9A: It took me a few tries to get YOWZA from “‘Holy moly!’” I had WOWEE, OH WOW, YOWEE and even YOWIE before I solved 12D and got YOWZA.
45A/18D: Twin clues. We have both EBB and NEAP tides in the puzzle today.
70A: The reason “Hair” is capitalized and in quotes is because it refers to the musical or movie. Many people had long hair in them. and some had AFROS.
52D: “Diamond head?” is not the Hawaiian location in this clue, or “head” would be capitalized. We want the head of a baseball diamond, and the person in charge there is the UMP.
Mr. Christian and Ms. Michaels offer us seven theme entries, and their arrangement is really quite amazing. The Down theme entries each cross two of the Across theme entries, which, as you will read below in their notes, is very hard to do.
The theme itself is a set of two-word phrases in which the first word begins with the letter L and the second word begins with the letter P. The revealer, at 62D, is LPS, clued as “Old records … or a hint for this puzzle's seven longest answers.”
That’s pretty much it. Except that I initially thought this would be a vowel progression theme, since I first got LATIN PERCUSSION and then LEOPARD PRINT. But there was no “LEE” sound. Then I noticed that there were LP phrases in the Downs as well, and more in the Acrosses, all out of order, and I somehow convinced myself that this was going to be some nightmarish vowel progression from heck that the editors cooked up because I once said I didn’t like that theme.
That, of course, is ridiculous. There are plenty of ways the editors can get back at me without publishing a crazy puzzle, such as putting salt in the office sugar bowl.
But my point is, it’s not a vowel progression. It’s a nice, clean set of LP phrases.
Andrea Carla Michaels: Every now and then, Kevin sends me a ton of creative ideas to see if anything strikes me. We have radically different styles, though complementary, so we like to collaborate. He is a grid master with out-of-the-box ideas (see his Mullet puzzle!). We've made a lot of puzzles, but this is only our second one for The New York Times.
Two-word phrases that start with the same two letters are fairly straightforward, so we were able to generate a long list of possible theme answers.
After arguing whether LILY PAD is one or two words, or how well-known LUKE PERRY is (who knew how timely?) we put together a set … and neither of those made the final cut.
What makes this unusual is that Kevin managed to get seven theme entries (plus a three- letter reveal) into a Monday puzzle. My job was to make the fill as smooth as I could. (There is a bonus theme answer if you parse 23D, perhaps clued as "Hollywood dog star?")
Kevin Christian: I like collaborating with Andrea for many reasons. She's easy to get along with and has a great sense of humor. When I bring her an idea, she always does something to it that makes it better. Most important, she's a fantastic judge of what is and is not clean fill.
We had many LP expressions to choose from for this puzzle. Some of my favorites that didn't make the cut were LUNG POWER, LINKIN PARK (we miss you, Chester Bennington), LATERAL PASS, LITMUS PAPER, LANDING PARTY, LIBRARY PASTE, LOTUS POSITION, LACROSSE PLAYER and LEARNER’S PERMIT.
I'm glad we were able to get seven theme answers into the puzzle, and to make two of them Downs that crossed some of the Across theme answers. That was not easy to pull off. There was no guarantee that it was going to work, but we were able to do it, which was great.
For the record, I still don't know if LILY PAD is one word or two without Googling it. It's two, right?
Thanks for solving!
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