“Completely Tone Deaf”

[.puz][PDF][Solution] Difficulty: 4/5

On Thursday morning I awoke to a strongly-worded email from a solver who’d just got done with my 5/12 New York Times puzzle. (Spoiler ahead.) She was disappointed that I had been careless enough to misspell Margaret Atwood’s name in the grid, and on this of all weeks! After all, her highest-profile novel was being regularly invoked on the heels of the SCOTUS draft opinion that portends reproductive rights being stripped from tens of millions of Americans. (Incidentally, you can support these people and enjoy crossword puzzles simultaneously.)

I explained the misunderstanding–there had been no mistake, just a tricky Thursday thematic gimmick–and we exchanged a few emails over the course of the day. In the end we found we had quite a lot in common, and we’ll be doing a Zoom call this week to get her started on construction of her very first crossword puzzle, which, not coincidentally, will have a Supreme Court theme!

Thoughts and spoilers for “Completely Tone Deaf” below. Many thanks to SpellingBeelieber, Jim, and Gavin for test solving!

hitting the high notes

I’d been hearing the phrase “perfection, no notes” over and over in the last 12+ months, and finally decided to sort out a way to employ it as a revealer. Initially I was thinking perhaps some sort of deletion puzzle involving bills, but finally caved and made what probably amounts to the 23094823943rd ever musical note puzzle.

I was sure that I wanted to ask the solver to ignore the notes consecutively, and to hide them as consistently as possible. And actually, when it came down to it, there were for multiple of the notes *pretty* few options for two word phrases for which, if you ignored the note string, yielded a crossword-valid answer. [SOL]O MAN really bailed me out. The other thing that made it hard to find examples was that I knew it’d be super inelegant to have a ton of extraneous D-O or R-E or M-I strings in the rest of the grid. And it was *that* element that made filling this puzzle a royal pain in the ass, ultimately necessitating a bit more gluey bits than I’d normally permit myself: ETO, ASST, and the not-super-common TARSES and LUNN (which both actually had interesting cluing angle possibilities). One of my test solvers also noted the fun inclusion of TIN EARS as a theme answer, which perhaps was too cute by half…

Happy solving, friends!


9 thoughts on ““Completely Tone Deaf”

  1. Definitely a tough solve! (I’m saying that to make myself feel better for not having been able to solve it.)

    I’m behind in my NYTXWs so I will wait a week or two before tackling the Thursday so that I forget the spoiler.

    I am wondering whether your inclusion of 55D was an intentional or one of those “that’s all that fits in the grid” kind of things…

    • I’m getting that impression, Rich! I got a couple of white flag emails this morning; I think this is probably the crunchest rossword in recent months. And as for 55D, that was a total coincidence, and I didn’t even note it until you pointed it out here!

  2. Since I never got back to the Rex Parker blog to laud your Thursday puzzle, I wanted to say what a double delight it was to have that NYT solve added to this weeks grids. And as you note, this song has been sung many times, but your take today was pitch perfect …the title certainly was spot on in helping us separate the chafe and it hit just the right note of difficulty. I’m saving 11d for future days of grid drought, but what a treasure to have in reserve!

    • Well, shucks, George! I appreciate you stopping by to say so. Apparently my father is also hanging onto a pristine 11d copy, though it’s as yet unclear if he’s saving the solve or treating it as a long term investment… thanks for solving!

  3. Took a while to break in, but really clever puzzle! It was so satisfying parsing the theme answers.. some of them I had to read multiple times
    to figure out what they meant, and then got to have that “Ohhhhh” moment. Thanks for the fun puzzle!

    • Hey, Sean! Thanks for solving. When I finished this puzzle I really didn’t know whether the “aha moment” would be distinct and satisfying. Glad it played that way for you!

  4. Oh, this is a much more elegant revealer than when Alex and I tried to do it (https://crosswordnexus.com/blog/2022/04/15/puzzle-38-rosanna-collab-with-quiara-vasquez/) … but on the other hand there is no “Macarena” content in your grid, so I think we all know who the winner is here.

    Something fairly impressive is that other than 6-Down, the notes don’t appear in any of the other entries in the acrosses or downs – I have no idea if that was intentional or not but that’s an extra layer of cleverness if so(l).

    • Actually, I was trying to remove the notes completely, and totally overlooked the one you found. Clearly your love of the Macarena is suggestive of greater musical acuity than I possess!!

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