Thursday, November 11, 2021

Thursday, November 11, 2021, Mark Maclachlan

A very tricksy Thursday for us today, and it took a very long time to figure out, in my case. I felt certain that 10D: Many a TikToker would be a TEE[N], but then fell into a strange mind confusion for 34D: Smooth, lustrous material ([S]ATI[N]). Perhaps it would have TEE again in the white squares, in which case maybe "sateen?" Trying to fit letters into each of the black squares, and repeating the letters in the white squares in any given row or column? 

But then I was also certain [E]MIT would be correct, but couldn't get others in that row to have MIT as well. 

Even when I was working on the revealer at 65A: Provider of directions ... or a hint to the four "+" shapes in this puzzle's grid (COMPASS), I was missing two of the letters and couldn't get it to gel. Finally, the other shoe dropped, and suddenly it all became clear.

It's a lovely theme, with the hidden direction letters in the appropriate spots in each + sign, as well as the bonus unchecked letters in the middle. It's particularly nice with the four words which connect the + signs, like 32D: Business that makes cuts in order to turn a profit? ([S]ALO[N]). 

Cartwheel hat

The rest of the puzzle plays like a chunky corner themeless with some funny neighboring answers, like the AQUARIA next to the PUPTENT, or IMEANNO above GUESSSO. Or even more unlikely, the TITANIC on top of an ICERINK...

But my favorite clue and answer pair is the innocuous seeming 30D: It's on the plus side (ASSET). It's a clever non-QMC, but it's made even better by the fact that the answer is on the side of two + signs...

Tough puzzle. I FWOE'd by putting in TiSHA rather than TASHA. And why? Because ___AAN seemed unlikely. It wasn't until I finished that corner with CASHCAB and looked back at 31A that BATAAN became clear.

- Colum

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