“Interrupted Meals”

crosswords for these troubling times

by Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] Difficulty: 3/5 N.B. Today’s puzzle is 21×21, so the clues will populate above and below the grid, rather than on the side.

A couple of quick announcements before we get to today’s puzzle notes. First, we’re doing a special Sunday Cursewords stream this afternoon at 4p eastern today with special guest Brooke Husic. Be there and fill squares with us! Thereafter we’ll be returning to our regularly scheduled 10p Boswords Spring Themeless League afterparty slot. You’re signed up for Boswords, ain’tcha?

I also encourage you to navigate over to the abortion access fundraiser being organized by crossword constructor and Wordplay columnist Rachel Fabi. It’s a puzzle pack that supports a good cause, with a top-notch constructor lineup and a great editorial team.

Thoughts/spoilers for “Interrupted Meals” below. Special thanks to Ben and Eric for test solving this week!

I went back and forth for a while on whether it felt more satisfying to present the puzzle as you see it, or rather by titling it “There’s a Fly In My Soup” and introducing one more horizontal themer in the bottom quadrant. On the one hand, the joke is usually spoken “there’s” rather than THERE IS (though waiter Grover, who famously eschews contractions, can be heard saying “There is a FLY in your soup?”). On the other hand, well, my preference for a revealer answer that expresses the gimmick and justifies the puzzle’s raison d’être is well-documented at this point.

Ultimately this concept was a challenge for a number of reasons. First, there were very few symmetrical [ingredient + soup type] options to choose from. I went with mirror symmetry out of where-the-space-falls-in-the-available-themers necessity. Second, these are basically the only ___fly or ___ fly types that I would feel comfortable introducing in this way. (They have to be very well known when they’re partially unchecked.) And third, the layout required a weird quadruple interlock between various the soups and the FLY answers. The grid it was, well, only barely possible, and did necessitate one or two compromises in the fill. But… grid art!

Happy solving, friends!

-Ross

18 Responses

  1. Ben says:

    Grover FTW

  2. rosstrudeau says:

    The best part of researching this was rewatching the Sesame Street ep where waiter Grover fields “there’s no ‘J’ in this alphabet soup!” complaints and goes back into the kitchen yelling “Charlie I’ve got a WEIRDO out here!”

  3. Charles Montpetit says:

    You’ve outdone yourself! In the grand tradition of Rorschach tests, the grid art only becomes obvious once the theme has been cracked, but it is quite stunning once we know what we’re looking for. Pity that your PDF file does not let solvers in on this, or that you didn’t use the PUZ notepad to point out the existence of that visual bonus in the online version…

    This is such a treat that I hesitate to nitpick… but hey, why not make this PERFECT by adding the missing quotation marks in 57a’s clue?

  4. Georgette Toews says:

    Hello Ross, I have tried several times to “save” the puzzle if I can’t complete it all at once and then when I go back to work on it, I have to start all over again. Is there a trick to getting it to save and be able to go back to where you left off? If it says “save”, it should still be there.

    • rosstrudeau says:

      Hi, Georgette. I’ve gotten reports of this in the past. I’m going to reach out again to the people who host these puzzles to see if they have a solution. Sorry you lost your work!

  5. Rich says:

    The puzzle BOWLed me over, nothing about it BUGged me (except maybe the clue for 102A which made me wonder why we had TOMATO in English rather than French – but on reflection that’s totally legit). I am angry at myself that as a former math/statistics major I could not remember the first letter to 46D, which left me Natick’d when as an old & very un-hip person I recognized neither the clue nor the answer to 44A. Liked the serendipity of IVIES in 7D right next to PENN in 8D (although personally I was hoping for YALE). Neatest clues were 87D, 105D, 16A (I was misdirected trying to remember if Chris Evans’s shield in “Captain America” had some name), 91A and 82D. Wonder if there’s a way to make the 98D clue even more devious by resolving the dichotomy between the singular (second base, which is stolen) and plural (seconds, as a supplemental helping of food). I can’t think of one but will keep ruminating! Thank you, as always, for making my Sunday mornings so enjoyable.

    • rosstrudeau says:

      Thanks, as always, for dropping by, Rich! The IVIES / PENN coincidence escaped my attention until you pointed it up! Sorry for the Natick… and not sorry for the Marvel-ous misdirect >:)

  6. Susan says:

    Good one (but hard)! Questioning 123A—stans?

  7. A clever puzzle that took me a long time to finish (even though the revealer at 114-Across was my first entry) and I’m embarrassed to admit that, after I was done, it took me several more minutes to figure out why only one of the entries intersecting each “fly” skipped *over* it instead of using a letter *from* it. (Duh! They’re the *meal* items, dummy!)

    In my own defense: I spent the last several days solving, digitizing, and proof-reading a collection of fifty puzzles from the first crossword book that Simon & Schuster ever published (in 1924) and it has left me feeling a little brain-damaged.

  8. Daad says:

    I was solving on paper, so I started from the bottom right corner..which means I got the revealer before any of the theme answers 🤦🏻‍♀️
    It was still fun to solve “backwards”. I LOLed at 101A, beamed at the science clues in 20D, 80D, and 65D 🧬, and overall had a jolly good time. Took my mind off a migraine I’ve been fighting since Friday. Thanks!

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