“I Can’t Hear You!”

by Jessie Bullock & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] ๐Ÿ™‰ ๐Ÿ™‰ ๐Ÿ™‰ Difficulty: 4/5

N.B. This is a 21×22 grid, so the clues are going to present above and below the grid, and not also on the side as they do when I post narrower 15×15 grids. As such, you may get better mileage downloading and printing the puzzle, or solving the .puz in AcrossLite.

Back in May of this year I tweeted out a proto-version of this grid, prompting Jessie to text me the message below. Sometimes I get a little geeked out about the bones of an idea, and I can’t help but *send it out there*. In this case, I was also unsure about how plausible it would be to find enough theme material. (More on that below.) But with a little elbow grease, and a whole lot of Jessie iterating on fill, it turned out to work pretty ding dang decently.

Big shoutouts to Will, Kevin, and David for test solving this grid! A couple of thoughts and spoilers after the jump!

๐Ÿ™€๐Ÿ™€๐Ÿ™€

The grid you see here is a 21×22, with the 22 vertical boxes *just barely* accommodating the two pairs of symmetrical ear shapes. Those ear shapes are also each constructed such that one two answers can be construed as “going into” or “coming out of” each one. Further, their size dictated that multiple pairs of theme answer, like NEVER LET THE SUN GO and FAKE IT TIL, end up pretty close to one another, and not plausibly separated by black squares in a meaningful way.

For crossword constructors making high-theme content puzzles, black squares are essentially the means by which you separate your theme box, limiting the overall number of down answers that pass through multiple theme answers and end up being rigidly constrained. Getting decent fill when you’ve got column after adjacent column constricted by multiple themers tends to be a real pain in the butt, so all credit due to Jessie’s doggedness on sorting out some pretty sparkly fill.

Can you think of other examples of common pieces of didactic advice that break down 50/50 like this? Honestly, there were only a couple of other possible options left on the cutting room floor…

Happy solving!

-Ross & Jessie

18 thoughts on ““I Can’t Hear You!”

    1. I think this one did some damage to my inner ear. Iโ€™m a little dizzy. Thanks for the challenge, Ross and Jessie.

  1. Great puzzle! One quibble: I think the clue for 54-Across should refer to 79-Across, rather than 80-Across (unless thereโ€™s some subtlety Iโ€™m missing, given that the square numbered 80 is part of 79-Across and 80-Down is relevant to the theme).

  2. Liked the 54A/79A clue and shading link much better than the “-” clues. BTW, I read them as ” . – ” and thought Morse Code for “A.” I don’t tend to see the symmetry until I finish, because of the timer. Looking for those placement clues feels like slowing down; in fact, they would probably speed up the solve. Thanks for these delightful puzzles.

    1. You and me both, Rich. The “-” clues always leave me feeling cold; they exist in this grid for, like, difficulty-calibration reasons. (They do essential scream “I AM THEME MATERIAL.”)

  3. What a terrific idea, not to mention the execution! Not only was it fun to solve, but I got a kick out of seeing 53A’s name. I actually played with her 40-some years ago. In addition to being a fantastic musician, she was a gifted teacher of young musicians.

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