“Felt Canvas”

crosswords for these troubling times

by Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] Difficulty: 3.5/5

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.

A hearty thanks to this week’s test solvers Jak, Delmar, and the legendary Byron Walden, who named today’s puzzle (but didn’t negotiate any royalties; what a mensch).

the joy of constructing

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!

-Ross

12 Responses

  1. Charles Montpetit says:

    Don’t fret about the emotional nouns and adjectives! AFAIC, it never entered my mind that this could be a problem. And thank you for hunting down the origins of the locations’ names – it certainly adds flair to this theme.

    On the other hand, in 15a’s clue, “relatively prosperity” should read “relative prosperity”. And even though you’re not the first to break the substitution rule for 17a’s EON, you know you really shouldn’t clue a noun with an adverbial phrase, right?

    • rosstrudeau says:

      Some solver’s brains (including my own!) really hitch on switching between noun and adjective forms in this way… but I’m glad to hear that went down smoothly for you!

      And thanks for catching that typo. Though “For-freakin’-ever” is just an informal way of saying “forever,” which is a noun form like its answer in EON. Forever and day! (EON has been clued as “forever” or “seemingly forever” or “for-ev-er” in various publications in recent years!)

  2. Jeff Neuman says:

    Love the theme, and I really like the offset revealer in the middle. You’ve got an internal contradiction, however, using both 19A and 13A, since acknowledging 19A requires acknowledging that the trilogy you refer to in 13A is actually a pentalogy. I appreciate the sleight-of-hand in the latter clue, and hate to nitpick such a generally clever clue-set.

  3. Jeff Neuman says:

    Apologies for my previous comment!!!! My brilliant partner has just pointed out that not only is there misdirection in the start of 13A, but that the mis in question (miss-en-scene?) was in a trilogy as well as the pentalogy I referenced. Has ever a worse actress figured prominently in so many successful films (three Best Picture winners!)?

    • rosstrudeau says:

      Ha!! You know the funny part is I was trying to fold in a totally different trilogy misdirect: Shire is a location in the Lord of the Rings!

      • Jeff Neuman says:

        And the funnier thing is that I recognized you were feinting towards LotR, but didn’t want to refer to it directly in the comment lest it serve as a spoiler for anyone — and then my GF oversight made it appear I didn’t recognize what you had in mind. Oh well, it’s not like I’m an editor or anything… (spoiler alert: I am).

  4. Elaine says:

    Well, that was fun! The only one I knew instantly was Penn State’s setting (but not the surprising backstory) since DHubby went there for undergrad degree. I wanted a wee little heart in the 37 square but had to give it up [pout] and had SOP before SOU.
    Disagree with Charles M above; parallelism is important. (I’ve never quite gotten over 8th grade and the Common Errors list; by 11th grade ths was distilled into Four Fatal Errors–where one’s grade started at 70%–an F–and went down from there. One of my classmates managed all four in one sentence. Ah, memories….)

    • rosstrudeau says:

      You know, it’s funny — the parallelism issue in crossword themes seems generally satisfied (at least to mainstream editors) by “balance.” I.e., even though the pattern isn’t 100% consistent, you’ve got 2 noun + feature (DESOLATION PEAK and HEARTBREAK HILL) balanced by 2 adjective + feature (HAPPY VALLEY and DISMAL SWAMP), which pairs of answers are opposite each other in the grid!

  5. Rich says:

    Thanks Ross as always for the Sunday fun, and thanks to all the other commenters (I loved the discussion about Talia’s oeuvre). You (OK, we) are all 10D. .

  6. johnjerseycoast says:

    Great puzzle but kicking myself for not remembering Kerouac’s aerie since I read it as a kid and it got me into Forestry. There’s a lot I don’t know about LotR (well, a lot of things really) so needed the comments here to *get* TALIA. Well done.

Leave a Reply