Thursday, August 24, 2017

Thursday, August 24, 2017, Neil Patrick Harris and David Steinberg

6:18 (FWOE)

Oh, wow.

The theme is superb. I love it! LOVE it. ADORBS.

ESCAPEARTIST and DISAPPEARINGACT are just warmups for the real fun that occurs in the bottom portion of the grid. Here, we have HARRYHOUDINI hiding literally from the crosses, which are clued as if the letters of his name weren't part of the answer. I almost left that theme answer blank, thinking that was the trick.

But no! Each crossing answer has become a new word with the addition of the letters in his name. I first truly realized something was up when I wanted to put "Tempe" in at 36D: Home of Arizona State University (TEMPE[R]). Slowly it dawned on me that I could actually put Houdini's name in, and the puzzle would still work. Beautiful stuff!

I love "acing" becoming AC[H]ING, "Oman" becoming O[H]MAN, and RSA becoming [U]RSA. What a fun and clever theme.

By the way, it turns out that Neil Patrick Harris, in addition to being a very funny actor and an outstanding Broadway singer, is an accomplished magician, so that must be the connection here.

To be honest, the rest of the fill is not quite so amazing, although it is smooth enough, and not boring enough to become a YAWNER or MEH (C- for that one). I enjoyed the boldness of HEGOAT (16A: Billy). SEXTAPE is its own kind of bold, of course.

EDWINA is a reference to an old favorite film. PECAN pie is one of my favorites. But of course my favorite answer has to be 8D: 2013 World Series champs (REDSOX). That's too easy.

Least favorite gets to be APOP (4D: Individually).

I did have an error, by putting PINTo in. That's stupid. It's a ship. It has to be female (PINTA).

- Colum


  1. 19:12
    One more thing about this theme that you didn't mention (did it happen in your version of the puzzle? I do the puzzle online at in a Chrome browser), is that HARRYHOUDINI disappeared at the end. That is, I first left all of those squares blank, thinking that might work. I did not get the "Congratulations" pop-up/happy music. So I entered HARRYHOUDINI and did get the Congratulations pop-up/music. But when I closed the pop-up to review, HARRYHOUDINI had disappeared from the grid! Cute!

  2. 14:20 (FWOE)
    I, too, left the squares blank at first, then entered them, and then found I had an error somewhere. It took me several minutes to realize that sIP was supposed to be NIP. Derp. Funny mistake for a toper like me!

    Anywho, I, too, enjoyed this quite a bit. I didn't know PHREAK, and I got confused yet again about the 2013/2003 thing. I always seem to be ten years off, thinking that the back to back 2003/2004 series (that ended up breaking my baseball habit entirely) happened ten years later.

    On xwordinfo I read (as you probably also did) that Steinberg tried to get NPH in at 1A, but Shortz didn't allow it. Pity.

    Lastly, when I saw that image, I immediately said "Back in bowl!" Ha! I haven't thought of that in years!

  3. 19:52 (FWOE)
    Same mistake as Horace - I had SIP instead of NIP and assumed LASAI was some obscure Hawaiian island. I also did not like the proper name crossing ESSEX and TEXCO which forced me to take a guess.

    I did like seeing HARRYHOUODINI disappear from the grid after submitting.

  4. 17:15
    Excellent, for the reasons mentioned above. NPH has long been a favorite for me, and I was aware of his magician prowess, having heard a great HS interview with him recently. I didn't know EDWINA, but the crosses were just fine. HEGOAT may have been my favorite, although the SEXTAPE/REDSOX cross was quite nice.