Monday, February 26, 2024

Monday, February 26, 2024, Joe Marquez

It's a sunny and relatively warm day in New York City, especially for the end of February. And for our delectation, we get a classic theme on a Monday, with shaded and circled squares. The revealer is at 59A: "I'm paying for this round" ... or a literal hint to this puzzle's theme (DRINKSONME). The alcoholic beverages are in the shaded squares, hidden within longer answers, while just below each one, in the circles, are the letters ME.

I enjoy these hidden words all the more when they are broken up across multiple words in the theme answers. Thus, "vermouth" is hidden inside RIVERMOUTH. That's okay, although it uses up the entirety of the second word. "Wine" is hidden inside TWINENGINE - better, for sure. And the best is saved for last: "sake" inside HESAKEEPER. Across three words! Nicely done.

Now mind you, I don't drink vermouth straight. I enjoy using dry vermouth instead of cooking wine, and as we all know from watching Auntie Mame, the vermouth is only in the martini long enough to be sploshed out entirely to make room for all that gin. In the other direction, I had the pleasure of having sake squirted into my mouth from a distance at a hibachi restaurant last year. I was nowhere near as effectual in my drinking as one of the guys from the college group sharing our stovetop.

How many days in a row can I feature an EMMA?

This puzzle's fill felt more challenging than usual for a Monday. RCADOME, UNEASE, NAMASTE being examples of answers not typically seen in the early week. But I'm not complaining! It's good to get a surprise every now and then. And look at that excellent IKIDYOUNOT at 30D. Very nice.

Amusingly, I was just thinking of JIM Henson the other day, recalling the song "The Rainbow Connection," from the first muppet movie. It's a classic, and his voice is so immediately recognizable. Yup, just listened to it again on YouTube. Simply wonderful.

- Colum

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