“A Day at the Races”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] 🐴🐎🎠🏇🏽 Difficulty: 2/5

Hail, dork, and well met! And Happy Fourth of July! Before we talk about today’s grid, here are a couple of links to more perfectly dorkify your summer:

-Parker live streamed some coding the other day! He added a couple of features to Cursewords, which I’m *very* excited to take out for a spin. Join us Monday evening at 9pm for some live xword fun on Twitch!

-The excellent Lollapuzzoola puzzle tournament is on the books! Mark your calendars for August 21st. I’ll be out of the country myself, but I can personally vouch for the quality of this event, which will be entirely online this year. And! The 2020 Indie 500 tournament puzzles have been released as a charity pack. I’m told that Wyna’s contribution is particularly delightful. Drop a few bucks in the hat and get some dope crosswords.

-The Juggernaut (South Asian-oriented) and Crucinova (tricky/avant-garde puzzles) are now both accepting crossword puzzle submissions.

A few thoughts on today’s puzzle, “A Day at the Races,” after the jump…

remember these?!

I was inspired to mess around with this theme two summers ago, at a carnival which featured the game pictured above. As I recall, each individual horse would advanced commensurate to the score of various contestants playing skee-ball in front of the mechanism. It was undoubtedly the 2D nature of the “race” that planted the seed in my head.

The crucial element of this concept is borne out by the fact that the four theme answers all *intersect* THE FINISH LINE, with only one of the four having exceeded it (left to right). In my weird puzzle solving brain, each of these horses has the theoretical *opportunity* to be the winner, never mind that they’re not actually, you know, moving.

As a result, I was pretty constrained in finding answers–all metaphorical or second-order references to horses–that symmetrically intersected THE FINISH LINE. Two of the four answers weren’t in any of my word lists and I had to go hunting for them.

And even after that, the placement of these theme answers was sort of comically restrictive. This is a *66* word 15×15 themed puzzle, with 69 theme boxes! And, as you can see, there isn’t a single place on the grid where you could add a black square to up the word count even if you wanted to! And moreover, the reciprocal answer to THE FINISH LINE was always also going to pass through all four theme answers, and in fact nothing in my word list fit the bill. I also had to add UNLABORIOUSLY to make the grid work, which particular answer also forced a few tricky areas.

The resulting grid required a couple more inelegant answers than I typically allow myself–looking at you ENTS, SADO, SGT. But ultimately, I’m pretty proud of the execution…

…with apologies to those of you whose PONY didn’t pan out.

Happy 4th, and happy solving, friends!


9 thoughts on ““A Day at the Races”

  1. Thanks Ross! I remember seeing an early version of this puz on stream, including the conversation of limiting factors. Fun to see how the final version came together. I do spy a typo – shouldn’t the clue for 18A be plural?

  2. You’ve uncovered a mystery! That singular got ironed out in pre, yet here it is presenting for you on the site. Did you see this on the applet or the PDF? I’m looking at both and seeing the updated versions. (TBH, I love finding/squishing process management bugs.)

  3. Looks like the HORSE 5A 1A.
    Ironic how much labor went into UNLABORIOUSLY.
    I’m glad you took a stab at a new way to clue EPEE.
    Happy Fourth, everyone.

  4. Wow! I’m just blown away by this grid. Having a single entry span 4 themers is almost unheard of. Having two entries do so, well I kinda don’t think that’s ever been done, as no sane constructor would even attempt it. Having one of those two entries also me a themer!?! Well, that puts this puzzle in its own world. Incredible job.

    • Hey, Jesse — very glad you enjoyed the puzzle! And if you want to see some equally bonkers construction, I recommend checking out Will Nediger’s bewilderingly blog… every other puzzle, it seems, is a mind-bending feat of construction.

  5. Actually, I kinda like UNLABORIOUSLY! Fascinated puzzle, Ross…don’t know how you do it. Thank you so much!

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