Thursday, February 11, 2021

Thursday, February 11, 2021, Alex Eaton-Salners

As I typed the final F in [ELFELF] at 25Across a moment ago, I found myself saying out loud, "now isn't that interesting." Only when I had completed the entire puzzle did I figure out the trick. It's a lucky thing for this solver that a good number of the Downs were gettable, so there was little question in my mind that I had at least most of the theme answers completed correctly, which was comforting because OMAN OMAN, they sure looked funny. While the clues were pretty straightforward, in order to correctly parse the answers the solver must render the doubled words in the shaded squares into their respective plural forms. So, to get a recognizable answer to "Program followed in Alcoholics Anonymous" one has to read TW[ELFELF]TEPS as TW[ELVES]TEPS. The other necessary changes are DIEDIE to DICE for COME[DICE]FFECT, MANMAN to MEN for NA[MEN]AMES (which, by the way, had the great clue "Sing under pressure"), and finally, the amusing FOOTFOOT to FEET for COF[FEET]ABLE. I think I can safely BETCHA that I wouldn't have come up with this crafty idea in a million years. 


With some trick puzzles, the rest of the grid suffers, but I don't find that to be the case here. There was a lot to enjoy from "Oak in a nutshell" (ACORN) and "Got into the swing" (SAT) - really good one! - and "Change in the Middle East, say" (DINAR), to the excellent "What a swish misses" (RIM) and my favorite, "Razor handle?" (OCCAM) - ha! I also noticed that if you read 34A and 35A together you get SLOE MOE. :)

In sum, this review found nary a thing to POOH POOH. High [FIEFFIEF] all around!



  1. I got the trick right away while filling in TW[ELFELF]TEPS, which, as usual in these cases, made the rest of the solve go a little faster than normal for a Thursday (12:36). Enjoyable theme, nonetheless, and quite ingenious. APPARATS is a new one to me, and I haven't thought about MAHARISHI for a long time, so that took many of the crosses, but lots to like in here, including the plural GINS; who doesn't like that?

  2. Had to come here to understand the theme, even after completing the grid. Somehow I was stuck on "two feet equals 24 inches and (this seems to be going nowhere)" and similar dead ends.

    Although I always do get a bit...... maybe the word is uneasy? or curious? on the topic of the plural of "elf". I see there is a whole essay at (and the plural of "drawrf", also mentioned there, is apparently tied to this at least in my head).