“Middle Child Syndrome”

by Ross Trudeau


I’m posting this week’s puzzle from Bretton Woods, site of the eponymous international monetary system, where temperatures today hit -17 (without wind chill). Our hotel sits under Mount Washington, where conditions are apparently historically inhospitable to human life. We’re in New Hampshire for a wedding, and in a funny little bit of symmetry, the grooms were also at our wedding this past summer on a 98 degree July day in Cambridge, making the temperature difference at the time of our respective nuptials a comical 102(!!!) degrees.

God knows if I’ll be in any sort of condition to participate in the Boswords Winter Wondersolve tomorrow, but in any case I’ll be tuning in on their Twitch stream. You should too! I got indispensable test solving feedback this week from cherished collaborator David, Sam, Migo, and Crucinova co-owner Gavin. Thanks, friends! A couple of spoilers/thoughts for “Middle Child Syndrome” below.

Prime example of a puzzle that was really irritating to wrangle, and perhaps not ultimately worth the time sunk into it. That’s not to say I don’t think it’s a good puzzle, but rather the work:payoff ratio was just… high.

The fact is that there are just very few ways to hide a hidden HEART (ahem) string, specifically if you need to introduce a word break somewhere among those letters. After that, there were also very few “kid” synonyms that had a K, I, and D in them, in places that were amenable to laying them out in a vertical orientation to produce the desired effect. (The HEART BREAK KID in the puzzle reflects the interrupting K, I, and D, as well as the words that bear those letters: TYKE, MINOR, and LAD.

Also, I went back and forth for a while on how to clue the revealer. My apologies to WWF/Shawn Michaels fans, who will 100% remember him from his pretty boy heel days as The Heartbreak Kid.

Happy solving, friends!


21 thoughts on ““Middle Child Syndrome”

  1. The good thing about being a solver is that you don’t suffer the problematic work:payoff ratio problem the way the constructor did. Personally I found the result very satisfying. The elegant way that the themers fit in (each broken heart interrupted by a letter of a word meaning kid, which letters themselves form the tail of HEARTBREAK KID) is practically magical.
    11D is a new addition to my vocabulary. Please add a new crowdfunding button to your site so that we can take up a collection for the purposes described in 65D, which I wholeheartedly support. Just in case the man can’t afford it himself.

      • It’s funny, “The Art of the Deal” was the only word in my dictionary that met the pattern THE ART OF ???????, so I had to go looking for viable alternatives. Turns out the Tony Bennett record is on-sale second hand at my local vinyl store!

  2. I loved the puzzle (really nice aha moment), and I’m a huge fan of the original Heartbreak Kid (never saw the remake). But is there a reason you gave the sole credit to Neil Simon, the screenplay writer, rather than Elaine May, the director? Usually when cluing a movie like that it seems like one would reference the director, not the writer, and Elaine May could use all the attention she can get as a very under-appreciated female director at a time when very few women were directing films (still an issue today). She only made four movies but they are all fantastic and interesting in my opinion (yes, even Ishtar!). Were you just trying to reduce the difficulty by referencing a more well-known person?

    • Yeah, you guessed it. Since the original was from the 70s, I just figured the name Neil Simon would ring louder bells than the name Elaine May. Your point is well taken, however! Nothing stopping me from name checking them both in the clue. (And yikes, it’s been too long since I watched Ishtar! Haven’t subjected (treated?) Jessie to that one yet…)

      • I had always heard such bad things about Ishtar, but I found it to be very funny and idiosyncratic. The whole beginning section in New York where they are trying to make it as a Simon & Garfunkle type act but without any talent is so hilarious. Yes, there are some later parts that feel dated or a bit cringy, but it’s not the epic debacle that its reputation implies.

  3. Love the quote for Elon. With the “moi” attribution, I delight in imagining him a guest on The Muppet Show and hearing Miss Piggy saying “Moi?!” with a kittenish grin.

  4. Used private browser to search up 62A. Didn’t want any targeted adds to pop up. Which I obviously don’t have yet because I didn’t know the reference! Always learn something new with RossWords.

  5. I’m also slow much of the time, but that does not diminish the delight felt when eventually recognizing the thematic ideas and grid design (or even having it explained on occasion).
    A shout out to fellow solvers whose apt and enjoyable comments are so informative (like I remembered Elaine May as half a famous comedy duo while overlooking her subsequent remarkable achievements) and to Ross for his overall generosity. Solving these puzzles opens our minds in so many directions – sometimes unintended and only partially related. For instance, I can not stop the refrain from Pat Benatar’s ‘Heartbreaker’ from dominating my consciousness right now: “You’re a heartbreaker, dream maker…….”, loving it!

    • It means a lot to see you all interacting and appreciating one another down here in the comments, Dom. Feels like that sweet hosting anxiety release when the guests start to converse/laugh amongst themselves…

  6. 37D: “Wine teeth” was a new one for me, but I’m a beer drinker so maybe that’s why my teeth are amber-colored, lol!

    • “Wine teeth” was a phrase that Parker Higgins introduced to me, and it was a satisfying little linguistic pick-up because it was a good example of having had a thing/phenomenon in my head, but no attending word/phrase to denote it!

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