by Ross Trudeau
Buenas días desde Playa del Carmen, and a happy new year to crossworld! I hope this week’s puzzle finds you suffused with optimism for 2023, or at least not *too* hungover. Jessie and I are on a short trip with some friends to celebrate my 39th birthday, having narrowly escaped the nightmarish travel conditions of the Upper Midwest. Our condolences to those of you who got got. At any rate, so continues our tradition of posting crosswords from the Free and Sovereign State of Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Okay, so it’s a hidden word theme. Nothing to pop any bottles over, right? In recent years I’ve started shying away from this theme type–they’re pretty ubiquitous and I’ve plumbed these depths pretty thoroughly myself–but this concept was appealing for a couple of reasons.
First, the ALCOHOL BY VOLUME (15) revealer allowed for a novel relationship between revealer and theme material. It’s doubtless one of those themes where the mechanism isn’t totally helpful for the solve, but (hopefully) adds a level of appreciation post facto when you go back and, well, check the math. And secondly, the theme set is tight (GIN, RYE, PISCO, RUM, ABSINTHE are more or less the only spirits, i.e., not beer or wine or cetera that you can hide in this way) but just loose enough to provide fodder for 5 theme answers plus a revealer, which is a robust enough gridding proposition to hold my attention from a craft perspective. Plus, STABS IN THE BACK, ah–satisfying.
Happy solving, friends!