Achieving Balance

[.puz][PDF][Solution] ⚖️

This coming week I’m delighted to share a byline with Malaika Handa–curator of 7xwords–on the Tuesday 8/3 Universal puzzle, as well as with Enrique Henestroza Anguiano on the Saturday 8/7 Wall Street Journal puzzle, which happens to be Enrique’s 21×21 print debut! Drop him a high five on Twitter; he’s a real pleasure to make dorky newspaper puzzles with.

In recent weeks I’ve been managing some health issues that have made the day to day somewhat, uh, quavery? I hadn’t intended to post this puzzle until later in the fall, but sometimes I can’t help but to get a bit autobiographical with my thematic material. Perhaps I’ll be able to achieve a bit more balance in the coming weeks (and be somewhat less oblique in my life updates on this site). Meantime…

H/t to Nate, Rafa, Amy, and Jeff for test solving today’s puzzle. Thoughts and spoilers after the jump.

level-headed Anakin

My tastes have evolved pretty starkly when it comes to this kind of crossword theme. One of my early New York Times puzzles was a MANSPREADS concept that follows the same formula, albeit in reverse. That puzzle fails to abide what I now think of as a pretty integral feature of the genre, namely restricting yourself to only one example of each of the letters that “spread” or “center” etc. Notice all those extra M’s and A’s in MAMMALIANS that muddy the spreading M’s and A’s that the puzzle wants you to direct your attention to!

One thing I really like about this week’s grid is the use of the rebus function to further “center” the C-H-I’s beyond just having them adjacent to one another, as in ENFRANCHISEMENT. That presented its own challenges in the construction, specifically stacking the CHI rebus directly below ENFRANCHISEMENT … OOH CHILD came to the rescue as the only possible answer that could accommodate the intersecting revealer answer below it in CENTERED ONE’S CHI.

You’ll note a couple of places where I could’ve dropped a black square to up the word count–the U at DO LUNCH jumps out at me–but for whatever reason I felt like keeping this particular theme as wide-open as possible. Too many black squares might have choked off the grid and, well, ruined the flow. At the end of the day, this turned out to be an ultra-low 68 words.

Looking forward to hearing what you think in the comments. Drop me a note!

Happy solving, friends!

-Ross

15 thoughts on “Achieving Balance

  1. Very elegant.
    Puzzle doesn’t suffer for the lack of those extra blocks you mentioned.
    Favorite clues: 27D and 28D.
    Feel better!

    1. Thanks, Rich! 27D struck me as, what, sort of borderline? The syntax implied by the answer really demands [One with *A* pole position], which would impede the “pole position” pun insofar as no one ever says “*a* pole position.” But… I let it slide as an act of elf care. Sorry, self care.

      1. Maybe *the* pole position, which I think is the racing term? Anyway, small problem. I wouldn’t spend my laST NICKel trying to fix it.

  2. I am delighted to discover that someone else uses my favourite mnemonic; my AP English teacher in high school taught us “Boys’ fan,” and within two years I had switched it around myself!

    1. Ha! FANBOYS is so engrained in my high school English mainframe that swapping the words never even occurred… which is weird for a guy whose job it is to consider word swaps 😀

  3. Be well, Ross o’ mine.

    I solved the puzzle before reading your comments and it was a delightful experience. It struck me that the choice — as you say, pretty much the only choice — for the Down rebus entry adds an extra layer. I knew the song, remembered the melody, but just now looked up the lyrics…APT!

    I once worked as a chaplain in oncology at MGH. Several of the nurses were Reiki practitioners and I remember marveling at their work when I was invited into the sessions.

    Thank you.

    1. Many thanks, Kelly — Jessie recently got me the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack on LP, and I’m wearing out the side with “Ooh Child.” The whole record is great, tbh!

  4. Ross – I can’t help but wonder if Chicago or the Chi-Lites ever covered 35-D. Terrific song (I’m old enough to have enjoyed it while listening to AM Boss Radio, KHJ, Los Angeles while ditching high school), Incidentally, The 5 Stairsteps were from Chicago. Beautifully designed puzzle!

    Feel better soon!

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