Sunday, May 1, 2022

Sunday, May 1, 2022, Brandon Koppy


Well, this is a tricky trick! I started leaving blank spaces as soon as I hit DEAD HEAD, because really, what else could "Fan of the album 'Aoxomoxoa,' say" be? HARD ASS was a little surprising, but, well, all the crosses worked out. Then, once I finished, I had all those spaces, and I figured "That's never going to work," and I was right. So it was off to the note, which asked me to "look for an appropriate bonus phrase." When I had read this in the beginning, I figured it just meant there would be a revealer to explain that the puzzle would have some spaces unfilled, but no. There was no revealer. I briefly despaired, but then I noticed that HOT POT could accept a certain letter - S - in the space and be turned into a new phrase. HARD ASS could become "hardpass," ARM HAIR (eww) could become "armchair," and so on. And if you read all the new letters from top to bottom, you get "space out." 

Victor LASZLO, looking spaced out

So then I thought - hey, that's pretty NEATO! But even with all those new letters, my puzzle was still not accepted as complete. I went one by one through every answer, and then I went to xwordinfo, called up the finished grid, and went through every answer again. Still nothing. And Jeff Chen didn't mention anything about it. So I went to Diary of a Crossword Fiend, and there, in the comments, I learned that entering a hyphen would allow it to be accepted. Now, a hyphen works for B-SIDES (Back tracks?), but not for TOOK OVER, PER SE, GAS LINE, or, really, any of the others. So, the mechanics of the solve are disappointing.

But let's not dwell on that, because the trick is pretty impressive, and if I had solved this on paper, the way all puzzles would be solved in an ideal universe, I would never have run into this issue. Instead, let's move on to the part where we talk about good entries and clues, like PLANETEARTH (The Blue Marble). It's a nice image. I prefer Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot" reference, but maybe that's me being a PEDANT. :)

Sometimes I find it comforting to see entries like OSIERS (Basket-weaving materials) in a grid. It's kind of like seeing an old manual typewriter in a closet, or a kerosene lamp. But maybe that's just me being a WEIRDO

It was a cute clue for ETPHONEHOME (Alien's line of communication?), and SOLARSAIL (Spacecraft's reflective attachment) and NEPTUNE keep the outer-space theme going. 

How'd you like it?

- Horace


  1. Well, I did put hyphens in, at which point my iPad app filled in all the letters necessary to write "space out." Disappointing, because I never got the chance to try to figure it out on my own.

  2. I solved it on the NYT page and didn't put any hyphens in. I knew enough to leave the spaces blank where they were called for, but alas, didn't get the bonus message until I came here. I just filled in the blanks with letters that would work and, like a WEIRDO, didn't think to read them in sequence, duh. But I DID love E.T., PHONE HOME :-)

  3. Wait a minute -- just wait a minute! 'Course I could be totally SPACED OUT -- but do you think entries like E.T. PHONE HOME, NEPTUNE, SOLAR SAIL is part of the theme??? (Don't mind me, I'm trying to sound intelligent!) :-)

    1. Hmm... now that you mention it, I bet they are! Sneaky!