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…
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!