Thursday, February 29, 2024

Thursday, February 29, 2024, Esha Datta

Happy Leap Day, everybody! I saw an advertisement on the streets of New York City yesterday asking what people were going to do with their "extra day," and suggesting they use it to volunteer, a good cause. But it made me wonder. Why is today the extra day? For me, it's a Thursday. I'm still working today. Isn't the extra day the one that comes at the end of the year, day number 366?

I'm surprised that the NYT did not have a specific tricksy puzzle for today planned. Instead we get a fun but remarkably easy puzzle that I finished in under 5 minutes, very fast for a Thursday. The theme answers are cute drawings of animals with musical instruments, indicating their names. Thus a crab with a violin is a FIDDLERCRAB. A seal with a lyre is a HARPSEAL. A swan with a cornet is a TRUMPETERSWAN, and a bird with a horn is, um, a HORNBILL. One of these does not quite fit with the others, but that's okay.

Then there's a punny answer at 57A: Mistakes in baseball ... or what 18-, 24-, 34- and 51-Across might produce? (WILDPITCHES). Hee hee. It's not exactly a revealer, but it does tie everything together. That being said, I entered all of the theme answers prior to entering anything else, which sped things along. It's not exactly what I expect for the first day of The Turn, no matter how lovely the grid and the fill are.

I do wonder if 17A is bonus theme material...

Sasha FIERCE AKA Beyoncé

Some nice answers in the rest of the puzzle, though. I love ZAATAR, both as a mix of herbs and as a word. Jhumpa LAHIRI is a very accomplished author, even though I haven't loved her move into Italian literature. 

Also, give me SAMOSAS and you have a happy camper. I love 43D: Most common vowel sounds in English (SCHWAS), that uncategorizable sound in our language. Also, we get 13D: State capital once home to Herman Melville (ALBANY), home to the Amory household for lo, these many years.

On the clever clue side, there's 1D: Where many bags of leaves can be found (TEASHOP) - not at the curbside in the autumn. 19D: Pause to play? (RECESS) is cute. And 42D: Place for soap? (MELROSE) is a great example of the tortured work one has to do to make a QMC work well.

So overall I enjoyed the puzzle, but I think it was better suited for a Wednesday.

- Colum

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