Happy New Year to all! Since I've last been with you all, real life has intruded in a very serious way. So I'm very glad to get back to the NYT crossword, and its much simpler demands. While it's nice to pretend that the arbitrary return of the calendar from December to January is somehow more noteworthy than any other sunrise, there's no reason to think things are going to magically improve across the world overnight. However, the crossword continues to be published on a daily basis. And that's a cause for rejoicing.
Also a cause for rejoicing: a Sunday puzzle by Mr. Pasco. I've loved just about every one of his constructions over the years since I solved his first NYT puzzle in 2015 (I recall it well because we were visiting Cece at summer camp and I was in a really crappy hotel room). And today's is particularly amazing. If you want to talk about a great Sunday level theme, this is exemplary.
Somehow, Mr. Pasco has found nine examples of phrases (relatively common ones) where you can find a dance form hidden inside, but in such a way that the name of the dance form is interrupted by a single letter. Taken in order from the top to the bottom of the puzzle, these single letters spell out "May I cut in," literally cutting into the dances.
How amazing is this?! I can't imagine the work that had to go into making this idea actually come off. I love the phrases: MOUNTAINGOAT, containing "tango" interrupted by I. SHORTANSWER, containing "hora" interrupted by T. VOLLEYBALLNET, containing "ballet" interrupted by N. The only theme answer that seemed at all tough to come up with was SHIRTWAIST.
Meanwhile, there is a lot of great fill to complement the fine theme. KARATEKID is a nice full name reference. I also liked ODDSARE, SHTETLS, and GEEKDOM.
I can't believe there are two 6-letter answers starting with I that could fit into a first-aid kit (IODINE and IPECAC).
I liked the clue at 48D: How detectives may act (ONATIP). Also, the QMC at 91D: Covers of vintage music? (SLEEVES). Finally, the non-QMC at 50D: Breaking and entering, say (GERUND). Nicely done!
Great start to the week. Let's keep it up! Maybe it's an omen for the New Year. No pressure.