At the virtual A.C.P.T. this year, we met a Canadian who has become a virtual (so far) friend (Hi Philbo!). I thought about him while solving today, and knowing that he'll probably be reading this review will keep me from trotting out all my Canadian slurs and jokes. You know, names like Canadia, America's Hat, and Cold Mexico. You won't be hearing any of that today!
Today's Canada-themed puzzle displays lovely mirror symmetry and a nice pattern, and if you squint, the central black squares look something like a leaf. They also, to me, look a little like a one-legged chicken staring straight ahead and flapping its wings, but for the purposes of this review, and in the continuing effort to keep all disparaging comments to a minimum, let's all agree that it's a maple leaf.
In the word part (I'm guessing this is the first time "the word part" has been used in a NYTX review) we find the lovehly theme of Canadian things that contain the consecutive letters "eh," which is one possible spelling of the National Interjection.
And speaking of, I'm sure you all know the story of how Canada got its name - the founders put scraps of paper with the letters of the alphabet on them into a toque, and then someone chose from it and called the letters out - "'C,' eh, 'N,' eh, 'D,' eh."
But in all seriousness, I very much enjoyed this puzzle. I thought the spirit of the cluing was smart, lively, and fun. "Pigeon English?" was a fantastic clue for COO, for example, and how about "Leader of the house?" for USHER?! "Mettle that may merit a medal" (HEROISM) was cute, "Words at an unveiling?" (IDO) was great, "Level or bevel" for TOOL shows a playful spirit, and I also really liked EARSHOT (Range within which you can answer the question "Can you hear me now?"). Those three central Downs - ELECTRICAL, TATOOINE, and ECHOLOCATE (Be batty, in a way?) were all strong, and there were several other fun entries that I will leave for you to discover.
Bonus Canada material was worked into "Newfoundland, e.g.: Abbr." ISL, "Québec's LAC St.-Jean," "Canuck, e.g., for short" (NHLER), and possibly ACTS of Parliament.
I'm not entirely sure what Mr. McCarthy is referring to with the answer TABLEHOCKEY (Two-player game invented in Toronto), but when I was young I played a lot of games on my brother's Bobby Hull table-top hockey game. Good times.
In addition to the Canadianisms, the puzzle also has some Mexican entries, like MUCHACHO and QUINCEANERA. Which reminds me of a joke - Q: What do Canada and Mexico have in common? A: They both border on stupidity.
In all seriousness, this was one of the most enjoyable Sunday puzzles I've done in quite some time. It's a debut for Mr. McCarthy (congratulations!), and I really hope to see his byline again soon. It was a great way to end my week.
p.s. I was going to post a photo of spider eyes, but they were all too disturbing for me to look at long enough to copy and paste, and really, nobody wants to see that.