SATURDAY PUZZLE — It’s been far too long since we’ve solved a Times puzzle from either of these constructors, Caitlin Reid and Erik Agard, a couple of puzzle-making hot dogs who collaborated on another terrific themeless grid over a year ago and have been occupied mostly elsewhere in 2021. Welcome back!
This puzzle is really fun and vibrant, and I think it offers fewer pain points than you are bound to expect when you see its formidable byline. I might have figured out some excellent puns after the fact, but that’s fine — I’d rather be slow to get a joke than stare at an ocean of empty squares, any day.
This is the vibe we get in great Saturday grids, references to Shakespeare and “Scandal,” French film awards and African anthems, “Les Mis” and SKA. If this puzzle were a street it would be a great one for people-watching (BEALE or Orange would do nicely).
I had a couple of little misdirects — “kois” for NITS and “sold” for SPUN, that sort of thing. There are some conversational debuts, but as long as none of the trivia sits in your personal blind spot, the art of the solve today is interpreting eccentric clues. I found them positively scintillating but was struck by the number of negatives in the clues and entries — I counted six “no’s.” (Not counting the one in VOLCANO, but including NOVAS, which makes me think of the Chevrolet model, although apparently I shouldn’t.)
15A: This puzzle might say NO NO NO, but we solvers say “Yes!” and plow forward. This is my favorite, and it’s a debut: When someone expresses regret but no responsibility for something, that’s called a NONAPOLOGY, which also goes by “regretoric” and “ifpology.” In my experience, it really hits the nail on the head. The term was added to the Oxford English Dictionary recently, in 2016, but there are hieroglyphics on a 4,500-year-old Egyptian tomb that read, “Sorry that you placed your store of grain so close to my cattle.”
33A: Another “No,” in a clue this time, referring to an attempt to mend fences that can be effective or infuriating depending on whether it’s preceded by heartfelt remorse or “regretoric” — ARE WE GOOD?
37A: This initialism has diversified over time from “L.G.B.T.,” its 1988 incarnation, to the current L.G.B.T.Q.I.A: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or ally. It’s much more inclusive but still evolving, and acknowledges that by ending on a PLUS SIGN (which is also intended to indicate myriad human experiences).
50A: I thought of a “staff” first as colleagues, then a selfie stick (which has been an entry a couple of times); second guess is a little closer to a UNIPOD, a one-legged tripod.
51A: I won’t tell you the entry, but I will say it’s a debut, and that surprised me.
6D: I figured that “Check” had to be a verb and that we were dealing with the topic of covert surveillance. Instead it’s a noun that has nothing to do with payment, but is a method for stopping “bugs” — INSECT REPELLENT.
20D: A very well-concealed sports clue here, referring to the black-and-white “zebra” stripes on a REFEREE.
28D: Maybe it was because of another Shakespeare reference, maybe it was the briefness of the entry, but I was somewhat primed for IDES. I didn’t know about any Jupiter connection. The IDES occur in the middle of every month of the year on the Roman calendar, and it was considered a sacred day of the Romans’ supreme deity, involving a high priestess and a sacrificial lamb.
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