by Ross Trudeau
Posting this morning’s puzzle from the first Amtrak out of Penn Station (NYP) en route to Boston South Station. Jessie and I are met with blue skies out the southern-facing window, robust Amtrak wifi, uncommonly crisp Starbucks fruit, and an accidentally-selected quiet car that is … abidingly quiet. Auspicious beginnings.
If you’re looking for some (*looks left, looks right*) hush-hush solving, go ahead and give this weekend’s Ross/Parker-authored grid over at Spyscape a solve. We took last week off, but we’ll be back tomorrow night at 9p eastern with some live solving at the Cursewords stream.
I’ve been kicking the tires on versions of this crossword puzzle for almost a year. We even did a crowdsourced version over on Cursewords a few months ago. The list of theme material got really, really long. And it seemed each of the various possible answers differed in key features! Think CAPE OF GOOD HOPE (4 words, noun emotion that comes last), LONELY MOUNTAIN (fictional, adjective emotion word which comes first), CAPE FEAR, LAKE PLACID, SEA OF SERENITY, LOVE ISLAND (a show!), LONELY ISLAND (a group!), GREAT BITTER LAKE, LAKE LACHRYMOSE, shoot, PACIFIC OCEAN!
After a while, it felt like maybe I was getting too hung up on maintaining consistency along all these lines. Is the emotion word a noun or an adjective? Does it denote an emotion or a feeling? Is the landscape feature man-made? Gah!
Ultimately, the theme set I chose (HAPPY VALLEY, DESOLATION PEAK, HEARTBREAK HILL, DISMAL SWAMP) comprises all answer words that start with the emotion, with two of the emotion words being nouns (HEARTBREAK, DESOLATION) and two adjectives (HAPPY, DISMAL). And to lean into the squishiness, I felt it might be nice to include the trivia/backstory behind the names via the clues.
Happy solving, friends!