You know what’s making me say 53-Across this week? Reports of record voter turnout across the Sun Belt. I see you, Texas.
But as 53-Across has come into its verbal ascendancy–we say it around the house a lot–I’ve done some reflecting on its very specific point of origin in my own vernacular. On many days during my daily commute between 2010 and 2013, I’d mutter it to myself, alone in my car, about halfway home. That commute started just south of Oakland, and took me up 880 towards Berkeley, and over the Bay Bridge towards my home in the Haight district of San Francisco.
I was teaching English and creative writing to high school students, and while I loved my job, the days were long and taxing and often kept me at school past sundown. On some evenings I could plop down into the driver’s seat in the school lot and then get all the way to my garage without making a single conscious decision—turn, lane change, radio adjustment. But when I hit the road with the sun still in the sky, the commute regularly offered up a spectacular and restorative vista. Driving that east-to-west reverse commute at sunset meant you were driving directly into the setting sun, with the glimmering bay beneath you, and ahead of you the unpredictable form of the famous San Francisco fog.
“53-Across,” I’d often say to myself on the upslope of the bridge.
On some days the fog frosted the peninsula like twice-whipped icing. Other times it streaked over San Francisco’s hills in daring wisps that dissipated at the peaks, only gaining a bayside foothold down by Candlestick and under the Golden Gate. And sometimes it stood thousands of feet tall, rearing up above the city but somehow tethered to it. And sometimes it bombed forward between the buildings as though the bay were breathing it into the great lung of the city. Those were the nights I love the best—when at the downslope of the bridge I slipped into the mist, undetectable as I cruised back towards the electric evening ether of the Haight, where all my edges would be rendered indistinct.
Spoilers and discussion of “Here’s Lookin’ At You” after the jump.
Don’t worry, solver. I’ve got a YOU HATE TO SEE IT puzzle waiting in the wings, too. But it’s November 1st, 2020, and I’d like to put some positive energy out into the electorate.
There were actually far fewer potential theme answers than I’d expected. The constraints were around phrases that were synonyms for SIGHT (i.e. things you SEE) that had an overtly positive connotation. So, A GOOD LOOK and other such answers are out, because that refers to the act of seeing, and not the object (IT) being seen.
YOU LOVE TO SEE IT also presents the irritating challenge of a 14-letter revealer. As a rule, you generally want to space your theme answers out as much as possible, but putting a revealer in the 13th, 14th, or 15th row of a 16×15 grid is either impossible or requires some awkward mass of cheater squares when your revealer is 12, 13, or 14-letters long.
So, in the 11th row it goes. And this decision generally means you’re limited to 3 theme answers. And 4th one–which you could stick in the middle row–would often leave you with an unfillable grid or some really icky pieces of compromise fill.
And since this puzzle’s raison d’être is, well, being nice to look at, it seemed wise to stop at 3 themers plus a revealer.
See you at the polls, friends.