Sunday, December 31, 2023

Sunday, December 31, 2023, Matt Linzer and Rafael Musa

Happy NEWYEARSEVE to all of our devoted readers! Hope you've got fun plans for the evening. For myself, Horace and Frannie are coming to Albany to usher in the New Year. Looking forward to baked brie in brioche. Mmmmmm...

Thanks to Philbo for a great week of reviews! Keeping up the theme of New Year's celebration (see yesterday's confetti filled puzzle), today we are focusing on the classic BALLDROP that takes place in TIMESSQUARE (and other places around the world, I imagine). Here, we get branching answers clued with "Before midnight" and "After midnight," each connected by the letter string BALL in a down clue. I appreciate that the constructors eschewed cluing all five of those repeated "ball"s with a deflating "-" clue, and instead came up with five different clues.

So, a lot of explaining. Here're some examples:

23A: Before midnight: Sloth, e.g. (HERBIVORE) + 36A: After midnight: Ointments infused with cottonwood or calundula, e.g. ([HER][BAL]LOTIONS), with 24D: Event for Cinderella (BALL).

68A: Before midnight: Some household expenses (WATERBILLS) + 85A: After midnight: Synchronized swimming ([WATER][BAL]LET), with 69D: Wad (up) (BALL).

I prefer the pairs where the "ball" is not actually a ball, as in the above examples, to [FOOT][BAL]LGAME. So that's four out of five. I also liked how 28A: Sloth, e.g. (SIN) echoed the first theme clue. It also made me very confused about the theme for a while!

 A favorite around our house

Other fun clues include: 120A: Star sign? (AUTOGRAPH) and 58A: Hookup that might get kinky? (HOSE). 9D: Device placed under a tongue (SHOETREE) was tricky.

This was a fun and moderately challenging puzzle. Hope you enjoyed it also!

- Colum