by Ross Trudeau

[.puz][PDF][Solution] Difficulty: 3/5

The time is nigh. In five short days, puzzlers from around the globe will descend upon–where else?–sunny Stamford, CT. I gather that ACPT ticket sales are something north of SRO, so if you haven’t gotten yours yet, it looks like online participation is your only option short of gatecrashing. Their security budget is approximately $0, so…

Jessie and I are attending together for the first time. She’s been asking for insidery intel on what to expect, and I have to keep reminding myself that I … don’t know. ACPT is one of those long-running summer campish experiences that is always many different things to many different people *at the same time*. Part of the fun for me is always spending some time on the mezzanine above the lobby doing some dedicated people watching, trying to guess at the various emotional landscapes forming below.

The most immediately identifiable tournament-goers are often first-timers, carrying sharpened pencils just absolutely everywhere (into the bathroom–you never know!), heads on a swivel as they bid for a glimpse of Shortz, trailing puzzle swag and lanyards in their frenetic wake. For other attendees, it’s clear that the experience is a skosh melancholy. These folks are hoping to recapture of feeling that they associate with ACPTs of yesteryear. Sometimes they succeed, most times not. This will be my eighth year going, so this attitude certainly is starting to creep into the emotional mix for me.

As is inevitably the case with such things, it’s probably best to let expectations fall away and try to be present. Though, of course, good luck maintaining your presence of mind when you find yourself ordering a pint elbow-to-elbow with BEQ, when Robyn Weintraub throws a convivial arm around your shoulder, or when Sam E. of the Bee bounds past with an armload of rubber ducky yellow folders.

See you soon, dorks. Brief thoughts/spoilers for “Gaslighting” below.

Neither CONCORD RECORDS nor COCA-COLA COMPANY were in my wordlist before I set about building this grid. I figured the bit was only going to be as funny as the number of clue-interrupting BEEEEEEPs I could muster, so I went hunting. I was hoping for at least one 4x C-O, but alas.

Hey, maybe you should check your CO detectors today? You’ve been putting it off…

Happy solving, friends!


24 thoughts on ““Gaslighting”

    • I have home maintenance ON THE BRAIN right now. We’re selling our house and all I can see these days are nail holes, scuff marks, dear god is that stain water damage????

  1. Sorry you’ve had such a bad experience with the detectors – don’t ignore the beeping though – call your gas company or 911 and have them test – when our carbon monoxide detector started beeping this past autumn, the capable professionals determined it was because a furnace valve was leaking, and the mean house gas would have killed us all had we not addressed it promptly.

    COngratulations on your COmmendable COnstruction, it’s COol.

  2. Fun puzzle. For some reason, the “C” answers and the “beeps” had me thinking the beeps were related to the “cuckoo for cocoa-puffs” mascot, in a theme that somehow conflated that breakfast cereal cuckoo bird and the beeping Road Runner. Then I realized: those are unrelated cartoon birds.

  3. Very COol, COmpadre! Favorite clue: 27D. I COncur. Have fun at ACPT! I’m thinking of participating online 🤔

  4. Thanks. I took your advice and tested my CO detector. You provide entertainment and life-saving tips.

    • I appreciate you saying so, Steven… and, gah! “Brain stretch” is now the SECOND comment that’s forcing me down a theme storming rabbit hole! (So I guess it’s mutual!)

  5. Great puzzle, but I have one nit to pick. Lynn Hill was the first person to free climb The Nose, but not the first to climb it.

  6. RE: 16A…part of the answer is in the clue (RECORD). I always assume that the word I want simply cannot be found within the clue. Perhaps “Label for Ray Charles’ ‘Genius Loves Company'” could have been another option?

    • Indeed! Some might call this a “ruthless dupe.” We decided to leave it in so we could use the “Record of the Year” hint to modulate the difficulty. (Though of course, to scrupulous solvers, this may have *increased* the difficulty!)

  7. Coming late to this, as I am just now catching up on your always-entertaining puzzles Ross. Thinking of a word string with four COs I could only come up with ROCOCO DECOR COLOR – or COLORS if expanding to 16×16. Not that I came up with a decent clue though LOL

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