“Delay of Game”

by Amanda Rafkin & Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] Difficulty: 3.75/5

They say you can’t go home again. Mostly I agree, though making puzzles with Amanda feels like going home.

Recently she’s been editing a new offering from the Puzzle Society called The Modern Crossword. It’s a puzzle that fills what sometimes feels to me like a certain difficulty/originality vacuum. Amanda’s been running grids of unpredictable sizes and wide-ranging thematic conceits that keep you guessing in satisfying ways. Go thence!

I got test solving input this week from Josh, Radhika, and Sam. Thanks, guys! A couple thoughts/spoilers for “Delay of Game” below.

The idea here is similar to puzzles you may have seen that ask you to ignore certain cluing letters. Perhaps you recall this Robyn Weintraub NYT grid from a few years ago. We wanted to modify that concept by a) asking the solver to WAIT FOR IT (i.e., the I-T strings in the relevant clues), and b) doing our best to deviously misdirect via the “surface” clue.

So, for example, [Phil Esposito‘s Winter Olympic sport] super *feels* like it should be MEN’S ICE HOCKEY (or something), but the clue is really asking you for [Ito‘s Winter Olympic sport]: FIGURE SKATING.

Similarly, [Twitch felt by expecting mothers] isn’t a baby kicking, but rather [Itch felt by expecting mothers]: PREGNANCY CRAVING. The other theme answers are:

[Brad Pitt’s 1960s TV show] = [Itt’s 1960s TV show] = THE ADDAMS FAMILY (We went back and forth on the merits of something that made more timey-wimey sense, like Eartha Kitt’s 1960s TV show.)

[Witchita hub named for an inventor] = [ITA hub named for an inventor] = LEONARDO DA VINCI

[Financial obliteration, at a tech company] = [Iteration, at a tech company] = SOFTWARE VERSION

[Ditsy Marvel movie duo] = [Itsy Marvel movie duo] = ANT-MAN AND THE WASP

[Swimsuit issue] = [I.T. issue] = COMPUTER PROBLEM

Hope that clears things up! It became obvious that we’d need to omit any other I-T strings from non-thematic clues, which was pretty irritating annoying, actually…

Happy solving, friends!


11 thoughts on ““Delay of Game”

    • Thanks, Slug. I gather from a couple emails I’ve gotten that this is a common response to the conceit. I’ve had a couple conversations recently with mentees who are worried about developing theme concepts that (mostly) become apparent and (hopefully) satisfying *after* the solve. I tend to agree that most puzzles shouldn’t operate this way. But in the end, I personally really quite enjoy the occasional puzzle that you have to stand back from when it’s all put together to appreciate. Like a Chuck Close painting, or something.

  1. Boy that theme was a toughie. I solved the puzzle without having figured out the grand conceit at all (wondering why my answers worked on crossings but seemed a little off vis-a-vis the clues), then ultimately had to read your explanation to understand what the grid was all about. I wonder if it’s because a couple of the themers worked, kinda, even if you didn’t WAIT FOR IT? I figured the hunger pain of a pregnant lady could be a “twitch” as well as an “itch”, and having thought that Paul Rudd’s and Evangeline Lilly’s characters were both dingdongs, I saw “ditsy” as being pretty plausible as well. I didn’t remember Phil Esposito’s sport, so FIGURE SKATING seemed as good as anything, and I’d made a note to myself to look up what Wichita’s airport was named…

    Now that I’ve said all that, you may be surprised that I actually liked the puzzle a lot, the material seemed really fresh and fun. So I’m considering it a successful themeless!

    (I was all set to point out, in respect of 2D, that it’s oysters that make pearls, not CLAMs, but the web tells me that those latter shellfish do as well. TIL!)

    • Bingo! It’s funny, we went with [Brad Pitt’s 1960s TV show] to sort of combat the fact that, for example, a lot of solvers would look at [Eartha Kitt’s 1960s TV show] and THE ADDAMS FAMILY and think, “Huh! I guess she was in the Addams Family. Cool!”

  2. Did not really understand the theme until I read this. Very twisty. Solved the puzzle correctly without it and enjoyed it – sort of like an ACPT #5. In a good way.

    • As I noted above, I think yours is the modal solve experience. I’m ambivalent about this, but in the end I come down more or less where you do with the Puzzle 5 analogy. Thanks for solving, Jay!

  3. Count me as yet another solver who did not understand the theme until coming here to read about it. I got that I had to mentally delete some letters from the front of each clue, but couldn’t identify the pattern, and only figured out the connection between clue and answer for a few of them.

    • I think part of the issue here is that I’d have preferred including more examples (of varying degrees of obfuscation) to help the pattern cohere. Alas–there just were so very few hidden -it strings to work with that yielded viable surface material.

  4. Got it all. Cool puzzle. Very puzzling. Figured out the theme after I got it all done. So … no complaints. (Well, okay … I’d never heard of “Samira Wiley” or “Obey Giant”, but the ‘Y” was guessable, so where’s the beef? … 😜)

    • Samira was new for me too! Amanda was the captain of the ship for fill in that section of the grid; the umpteenth iteration of “welp, glad I know who that talented person is, thanks crosswords!”

  5. My first attempt at understanding the theme (after solving) was to start with the word _after_ the word in which “it” appears, which works with some of the clues but not all. Why it took me another full minute to see Cousin Itt hiding in the first clue even after having thought about him 5 minutes earlier is beyond me.

    Excellent puzzle, of course!

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