Wordplay, The CROSSWORD COLUMN
Peter Wentz escorts us into MMXXII with a staid and sensible — never mind!
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SATURDAY PUZZLE — One day, when the universe stops expanding and begins to collapse in on itself, entropy will get the upper hand for good, and we will find ourselves entering nonsensical strings of letters into our crossword puzzles to complete them, as odd as it may feel. That day is now. Just kidding. Happy New Year.
Peter Wentz started constructing for The Times in 2007; this is his 20th Saturday puzzle, and I think it’s a toughie on a few levels. Mr. Wentz goes heavy on debuts as a rule, and there are several good ones today, as well as some difficult trivia and even some headscratchers lurking in the corners. All good fun, and good tests of our resolve.
I truly don’t know my “Pitch Perfect” cast or my Spanish social reformers, which is fine — it is Saturday, after all. I also couldn’t decide between SEA “cats” and RATS, and I thought that things “full of twists and turns” could be “swatch books” instead of SWITCHBACKS.
32A. Kudos to you if you got this entry from its clue! I’ll bet that a certain population of solvers might, those who are sitting at a full keyboard, which should make for a spoiler. If you locate the comma referred to in the clue on that keyboard, the “line before it” is ZXCVBNM, which certainly rolls off the tongue, eh?
Mobile solvers probably deduced this after a few letters, as the answer would have been right before their eyes (and anyone who uses Morse code with regularity probably loved this clue). Using pen and paper, I was mystified. This is actually this entry’s third appearance; it debuted in 1994 as part of a theme.
42A. This is small fill, but I never really thought of TEES as intersections, although they are, of course. I also imagine something equivalent to “under one’s eye” at 38A, because those are the bags I picture when I think of sleep deprivation, rather than ones containing (presumably caffeinated) TEA.
45A. This is a gentle clue for something I’d never heard of — knowing that it’s a “coin” helps to deduce DOLLAR, and PEACE DOLLAR sounds like just the thing the U.S. Mint would crank out, with a bald eagle and Lady Liberty vying for heads vs. tails (I assume the bald eagle is tails). One of the rarest coins in the world is a piece from 1964 that was recalled and melted down shortly after its production because of a silver shortage — any survivors would be immensely valuable.
2D. I had a much harder time with the west side of this grid, especially its two long vertical entries, and figuring out this expression gave me a chuckle. I think it’s unfair to reserve I HATE IT HERE for “mopey teens,” who already have a monopoly on angst.
14D. I love this kind of food debut, delicious with an interesting back story. MONKEY BREAD came to the United States via people immigrating from Hungary, where it’s known as “arany galuska,” or golden dumplings. Its “monkey” moniker may have originated with the actress ZaSu Pitts.
52D. When is RED “like diamonds”? When you’re talking about the suits in a deck of cards, though that makes me think of aces, like the ones in the clue at 46D. Except those aces are baseball pitchers — the great ones, who have low Earned Run Averages.
If you’re ever stuck trying to come up with a seed entry, might I recommend falling asleep face-first on your keyboard?
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