Frannie and I have noticed that the young people today do not always understand the expression "How's Tricks?" We have each used it, independently, with people we work with who are in their twenties and thirties, and it's not at all universally recognized. But if I were to continue writing about what the young people don't know, this would be a very long post.
I'll just assume, Dear Reader, that you are familiar with the term, and that you enjoyed this puzzle as much as I did. Explained by the crossing revealer NOWYOUSEEME NOWYOUDONT, which can be interpreted as "Now you C me...," it explains the addition of the letter C to seven across answers, and it's removal from three Downs. (Don't be worried by the odd number of answers - the revealers keep everything symmetrical.)
For example, the common expression "any old time" gets a C and becomes ANYCOLDTIME and is amusingly clued by "When you can ice skate outside?" Conversely, a "Visit to baby Jesus?" becomes a MAGIMOMENT. It could probably also be considered a "magic moment," but I'll leave that coincidence aside.
I loved this puzzle. It took me a good long while to get into it, and then even longer to really understand what was happening. And I found the cluing to be quite good. None of this is surprising to me, because I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Ginsberg. He is whip-smart and he seems to enjoy not only the solving of puzzles, but also the study of them. He has become something of a celebrity at the A.C.P.T. because of his crossword-solving computer program, Dr. Fill. After each puzzle, Will Shortz will stand up to announce how Dr. Fill did, and it usually goes something like this: "Dr. Fill finished in 18 seconds and had zero errors." And the crowd groans and jeers. Until we get to the tricky puzzle ("Puzzle Five") when Dr. Fill is stumped by the same mind-bending tricks that stump all but the best solvers in the room, and when the number of errors is announced the room applauds wildly.
I rooted against DeepBlue and AlphaGo, but I am staunchly pro-Dr. Fill, and I see this puzzle as something Mr. Ginsberg probably created to help Dr. Fill. To improve his understanding of nonsensical answers. CRESTAREA is not a normal combination, but it is made up of two normal words... I wonder if code has been added to consider the addition or removal of a letter from one word that can result in the creation of another word? Maybe that's what this is about...
Anyway, this post is getting so long that I barely want to go back and proof read it - and that's too long a post. Here are just a few bullets of things I enjoyed:
- The two "big bucks" clues 18- and 49-Across (RODEO / DOE)
- "Profession since the Bronze Age" (SMELTER) - cool realization
- LAYON, Maduff - Reminds me of Frannie's dad, who would often say "Play on, Macduff" during a card game when someone got side-tracked with a story.
- HIGHC ("It's hard to hit) - Right in the middle. This has to be intentional.
- HEMS ("Brings up, say") - that M was my last letter. So tricky!
OK, that's it. Loved it. Good luck next year, Dr. Fill! :)
p.s. SPIRE - Too soon!