THURSDAY PUZZLE – Howard Barkin is an occasional builder, but is best known to the crossword community as a terrific speed solver. Mr Barkin even knocked down eight-time champion Dan Feyer and won the grand prize at the 2016 USA Crossword Tournament.
For the curious, here’s what it looks like when an early winner triumphs over the title speed resolver (please turn up your volume). Thanks to Ben Zimmer for capturing this exciting moment.
Mr. Barkin is also universally known as one of the friendliest people in the puzzle community. And there are a lot of them, so that’s saying something. You should solve his crossword just for that.
But I see another reason to solve this puzzle, and no, that reason isn’t just because it’s there. It’s also a lot of fun. Mr. Barkin noticed something really interesting about our language, and my response, once I got the theme, was “Oh, wow!”
Don’t be such a stranger, Mr. Barkin. We appreciate your crosswords.
21A. If you’re just getting started solving crossword puzzles, you might not know that Will Shortz and uber-builder Merl Reagle made an appearance on “The Simpsons” in the 2008 episode “Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross”. Words”. In the episode, LISA Simpson, Homer’s daughter, discovers her talent for solving and participates in an ACPT-like tournament at the “Springfield Hyatt”.
23A. The clue “Gathering of spies? sounds like we’re supposed to think of a real spy meeting. (Do spies have conventions?) The question mark, however, means the answer is not so simple. In this puzzle, “gather” refers to what is gathered, and spies gather INTEL.
8D. Mahatma Gandhi’s first name was MOHANDAS, which has not appeared in The New York Times crossword since April 1944.
9D. TIL (Today I Learned) the Baltimore Ravens were named after Edgar Allan POE’s poem “The Raven”. The team’s current mascot, POE, was one of the original three mascots. The other two were named Edgar and Allan, of course.
27D. Nice pun. Remember that keywords in clues such as “opener” are used to indicate that the clue is looking for a prefix. The response to the “Present opener?” is OMNI, as in OMNIpresent.
To the club “It should have been another day”: Is this the trickiest Thursday puzzle I’ve ever solved? No, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. The theme is tight, and it’s kept its secrets to me for a decent amount of time. And it provided a very nice “Aha!” moment. Sometimes that’s enough.
Theme clues read like sentences that contain acronyms – such as 18A’s “TV talent show” – but those acronyms are really a clue. The first letters of two-word answers are the initials of the clue. In the case of 18A, the answer is NBC”JHE VOICE”, which airs on television and is a talent show.
It worked well, didn’t it? Let’s look at one more.
At 28A, the answer to the clue “FM band on the radio?” East FLEETWOOD MTHAT. While solving this clue, one of my brain cells pointed out to me that another good but off-topic answer would have been Steely Dan, since that band recorded the song “FM”, which was played on the radio.
Hello again! It was a long time ago. This puzzle was born out of the simple thought I had that “The Voice” was a TV show with the initials “TV” (we builders love those quirky pieces). I thought, of course, it shouldn’t be too hard to find more examples of apt initials… and then I had a real reality check.
So it seems that if you want to limit your theme to: 1) two-letter initials that 2) are shared with a very popular name and 3) the initials can also aptly describe what that name is or does, well , it’s not quite as easy as it looks.
The puzzle was developed in December 2020. I hope not necessarily to amaze the confusing world here, but to provide a happy little diversion for as many people as possible in these strange times.
Additional note: I was disappointed that Mariah Carey didn’t seem to host any events, instead sticking mostly to vocals. It’s okay, Mariah, we forgive you.
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The tipping point
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