Ah, Thursday. Repository of the rebus. And who better to carry it out than Liz Gorski? I had heard that she was no longer composing puzzles for the NYT, but I am heartily glad to see her back. This is her really strong suit: not just the rebus, but the extra layers of meaning that she puts into it.
I knew there was going to be a rebus when I saw 9D: This puzzle's special squares, e.g. (OCTET), and it was confirmed when I couldn't fit ALC[HE]MIST in at 11D: Seeker of the elixir of life. It was just a matter of where the rebuses would be, and that took quite a while to figure out. In fact, the first rebus square I placed was the crossing of TUNA[HE]RO and AC[HE]FOR.
But the theme is much cleverer than that. See, all eight of the rebus squares make a circular shape, much like a BALLOON, and they're all filled with [HE]LIUM! I love it. The symmetry of the placement of the rebus squares means that once you've got the gist of it, the rest are placeable without figuring out the words, but that's a minor point in my book.
Before getting the theme, though, I did have "emu" at 36A: Ostrichlike bird (R[HE]A). And that's sneaky. It's great that several bits of crosswordese are repurposed here by the theme, namely T[HE]A, C[HE]R, and T[HE]O. There's also a trio of words ending in "the" in SEET[HE], BAT[HE], and TIT[HE]. She manages a couple of clever clues as well, such as 37D: Dyeing wish? ([HE]NNA) and 20A: Response to "How'd you get the answer so fast?" (IC[HE]ATED). Ha!
There is, as you'd imagine, a lot of filler that leaves something to be desired. Plural PXS, strangely past-tensed OKD, partial ANICE. But look at SHIATSU, DEADSPOT, and RETRACTS. Those are nice. Probably my favorite clue-answer pair is 25D: Drawing room? (ATELIER). It's a great entry right down the middle of the puzzle.
1A: Stop daydreaming (SNAPTO) gets a B+ in my book. It's a good clue, and the answer is exactly right for the definition.
I enjoyed this one quite a bit, in case you didn't realize it...
I, too, had "emu," of course, because that's just what she wanted us to think! I also guessed "pOnd" for COOP (Fowl territory?) (Nice!), and "pro" for AMP (Speaker's position?). I'm still not quite sure how that last one works, come to think of it.
Although I did get the idea that the rebus squares made a BALLOON shape, I didn't notice that they were perfectly symmetrical. That's quite elegant. (I suppose it kind of has to be that way, but still...) Love the theme. I can't remember which one I got first, but it didn't take too, too long to sniff it out.
DUPLE, ROLEOS, ITE, AMBI, and RADO I could do without, but as you say, the theme is quite good here, and on balance I, too, come out in favor.
The speaker (i.e., woofer, tweeter) is inside the [combo] amp. (Of course, a true amplifier is a standalone piece of equipment that connects to a speaker cabinet that holds the tweeters and woofers, etc. But that said, I do, of course, have a couple of smaller "combo" guitar amps with a physical speaker inside the same cabinet as the amplifier circuitry and do call them "amps" in the colloquial manner. So I can't really complain about the clue.) Still, the best you can say is that it's an unusual clue for an overly common piece of filler.Delete
Just checked in on Jeff Chen over at XWord Info and he had a link to the puzzle as it appeared in the paper -ReplyDelete
Check it out!
It took me awhile to figure out the theme/rebus, which is odd because I kept coming across words that I knew had to end with "the" and there just weren't enough squares. OCTET came slowly, partly because I originally had REclAimS instead of RETRACTS at 18A and (like Horace) pOnd instead of COOP at 7A. [HE]NCE is a word that I like, but the clue at 15A Starting now wasn't making that one jump out at me. I never heard the term ROLEOS, but figured it'd be something like that. Funny that TUNA[HE]RO so closely follows "TUNASUB" from a day or two ago (Sue liked the both of those). Sue also liked 38D Frequent trip takers (ACID[HE]ADS), as did I. She wondered whether her father would have had to look up what that meant, assuming he'd have filled it in from the crosses.