“Pinch Hits”

crosswords for these troubling times

by Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] Difficulty: 3.75/5

First and foremost, THANK YOU. I just got done stuffing and licking a whole stack of thank-you letter envelopes going out to folks who donated to Rossword Puzzles over the last few days. (This’ll be the last time I’ll prompt folks to notice the “donate” button on the site until next January; we’ve got bigger fish to fry than dollars and cents!)

Today I’ll be participating in the Boswords Winter Wondersolve crossword tournament. If you’re reading this on Sunday morning, there’s still time to sign up! As a Boston local, it has been my honor at Boswords of yesteryear to write puzzles for their summer tournament, held a few miles south of me at Roxbury Latin (imagine that: a Boswords Rossword!). Fingers crossed that I’ll perhaps be able to see some of you all there this summer. As of this writing, I also plan to attend the 2022 A.C.P.T. down in Stamford. I still haven’t gotten my head around the emotional implications of seeing so many cherished puzzle heads at once. It’s possible that if you see me there I’ll be openly weeping. Pray don’t let this dissuade you from saying hello.

Onto today’s puzzle, which does what last Sunday’s NYT grid did *not*, and is therefore, in my opinion, a more elegant piece of gridwork. Many thanks to Rebecca, Matt, and @TweetsVanZandt for test solving this one!

bicycle day!

Maybe I year ago I tweeted about some proto-version of this grid, and the excellent puzzle constructor Max Carpenter replied with his own version of the conceit. I’ve tried to dig it up, so if anyone has a line on where it lives, leave a comment.

It’s not hard to see why we both landed on the same concept. MICRODOSE is just a super evocative phrase that’s becoming more and more in-the-language, as we say. It’s also a perfect revealer answer for a rebus puzzle. And when I noted that the resulting L-S-D strings, bound by a square shape, look a lot like your average piece of acid blotter paper, well, how could I not?

There are three features of this puzzle that made the final product super satisfying for me.

First, while the theme content was finite, there were enough options to render a grid where the LSD tabs are located symmetrically in the grid, which is ALWAYS my preference, and which I wasn’t able to do in last Sunday’s NYT puzzle. Second, each of the answers breaks up the L-S-D strings in a consistent way, with a space after the S: DEVIL’S DEN, CALLS DIBS, RU PAUL’S DRAG U, etc. And third, I was able to include the revealer answer of MICRODOSE (rather than using it as a title) by getting a little ambitious with the placement of the revealer answer (stacked flush with DEVIL’S DEN and intersecting DIALS DOWN).

None of these features are totally necessary, of course. But they’re the sort of features that give me really satisfying brain pops when I’m looking at a finished grid.

Happy solving, friends!

-Ross

16 Responses

  1. Andy Gefen says:

    I’d up the difficulty to 4.5, personally. Been a long time since I’ve seen 19D. And I’m afraid to ask about 3D. Nah, I think I get it. SMH.

  2. Adam says:

    Excellent! Super satisfying AHA moment, which to came in the SW. I have a slight issue with the cluing for 38D, as I was taught that enormity carries a certain moral weight in describing big, evil things. Bravo all around.

    • rosstrudeau says:

      You’re probably right about the common connotation for 38D, Adam. Interested to hear others weigh in, though I suppose the ol’ “gettable is gettable” precept applies in any case.

  3. gillianren says:

    Enormity is evil. Enormousness is size.

    • rosstrudeau says:

      Adam mentioned something to this effect above! All the dictionaries I’ve checked have both definitions listed, though I tend to agree that I hear it used somewhat more w/r/t psychological weight than w/r/t physical scope.

  4. Betsy Daly says:

    Good luck at BOSWORDS today, Ross. I miss our in-person tournaments at RLS so much!!

  5. Martha Belden Moore says:

    Another fun puzzle! Thanks, Ross.

  6. Libby R McClelland says:

    Was waiting for this today in my inbox. Thought I was fully registered

  7. John says:

    Risked flashbacks on this one but great fun and appreciate the craft in the rebus placement. Life has been interfering the past few weeks so I’m catching up with Rossworld. Completed “I Speak for The Trees” last night too. I had delayed doing it because I was searching for my Lorax copy but could not find it. I used to be an arborist and it was a gift from a nephew years ago. But turns out I really did not need it. Thanks.

  8. Rich says:

    Thanks for another great Sunday (well, Monday, by the time I got to it). What a long strange trip it was.

    I have to commend the cluing for 3D. (I have several puns in mind, but I will not type any of them here.) I got 7A on crosses, but I don’t understand what it means?

    • rosstrudeau says:

      You’ve got a much better internal editor than I, Rich. My dad once used “What a long strange strip it’s been” as a D’bury tag line, and it wasn’t until adulthood that I put it together.

      As for 7A, Big Sur is a Mac OS version.

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