There had been some question at the end of this year’s American Crossword Puzzle Tournament whether it would return to Stamford, Conn., for another year. The event drew record attendance this year, and it wouldn’t be shocking if the tournament needed a new space to accommodate the large number of contestants. However, organizers recently announced that the ACPT is, in fact, returning to Stamford next year on March 20-22. So you can start making plans now, although registration won’t be open for several months.
Tomorrow is Earth Day, so I wrote an eco-puzzle for this weekend. Nearly every non-themeless puzzle I’ve written for The Post features one overarching theme that connects the whole puzzle together. Today, we have three different mini-themes, each based on one of the three Rs of the environmental mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” The Reduce theme answers take synonyms for “waste” and squash them into rebus squares, with their clues hinting at “reduced waste”:
- 22A: [Person selling discarded objects (reduced waste)] is (JUNK) DEALER. Crossing it at 22D: [Officials’ trips (Hint: The first syllable rhymes with 54 Down)] is (JUNK) ETS. I threw in that parenthetical hint to help you out in case either phrase wasn’t obvious.
- 47A: [Amass with difficulty, as money (reduced waste)] is (SCRAP) E TOGETHER. Crossing it at 47D: [Pork mush dish that rhymes with a fruit] is (SCRAP) PLE. I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten it myself, although it’s sold in Philadelphia and other surrounding Mid-Atlantic cities. Once again, I tossed in that rhyming hint to help limit the possibilities.
- 95A: [Garbage disposal unit member (reduced waste)] is (TRASH) COLLECTOR. Crossing it at 78D: [Summertime skin woe] is HEA(T RASH).
The Reuse theme features phrases in which a type of food container is “reused,” or repeated in the phrase itself:
- 23A: [High-kicking performers (reused food container)] is CANCAN DANCERS, with a repeated can.
- 67A: [“Star Wars” character from the underwater city Otoh Gunga (reused food container)] is JAR JAR BINKS, with a repeated jar.
- 118A: [Related to the sound of ringing bells (reused food container)] is TINTINNABULAR, which is an unusual but real word, hence why I gave a straightforward definition for its clue. It has a repeated tin.
Finally, the Recycle theme features familiar phrases that are anagrams of recyclable objects:
- 38A: [Experience the initial thrill of a potential victory, idiomatically (recycled SODA BOTTLE)] is TASTE BLOOD.
- 87A: [Generate discussion (recycled D BATTERIES)] is STIR DEBATE.
- 121A: [Tiny bit (recycled COUPONS)] is SOUPCON. Okay, fine, the C of SOUPÇON has a cedilla where COUPONS does not, but just work with me on this.
I imagine that each theme has its own difficulty level for solvers. My guess is that the Reduce theme is likely to be the toughest (because rebus squares tend to be unexpected), and that the Recycle theme would be the easiest (because it’s telling you directly which letters can be found in the answer). But paradoxically, the Recycle theme was by far the hardest part for me to work out. It’s once thing to create nonsense anagrams like, say, LOBED TOAST or SLOB TO DATE from the phrase SODA BOTTLE, but it’s far harder to find legitimate, in-the-language phrases that can anagram to equally legit phrases. Just finding three suitable anagrams of recyclable objects took several hours. Some anagrams that fell just short for me include LABOR EXEC (an anagram of CEREAL BOX), RIDE-TRACKING (an anagram of INK CARTRIDGE), CAPTAIN N (a not-so-well-known video game-based cartoon from the early 1990s that I used to watch and that anagrams to PAINT CAN), and POTIONS TEST (a sort of arbitrary description of a Harry Potter exam that anagrams to POST-IT-NOTES). Still, once I found that STIR DEBATE could anagram to D BATTERIES, I just had to keep going.
I intended this puzzle to be more challenging than normal, but it turns out that I went way too far during the test-solving phase. It’s not uncommon for me to ease up on clues when warranted, but I ended up changing close to half of this puzzle’s clues to make them easier. I hope that it’s still solvable and fun in the end.
Some other answers and clues:
- 58A: [“Nature’s sole mistake,” per the libretto to “Princess Ida”] is MAN. I mean, maybe nature’s biggest mistake, but “sole” mistake? Neither Gilbert nor Sullivan ever met my cat. Just look at this fluffy yet lovable mistake:
- 62A: [Volume unit] is LITER and right next to it at 63A: [Volume unit?] is PAGE. Think of a volume in a written series like an encyclopedia for the latter.
- 106A: [Drink that serves as the title of a Beyoncé album] is LEMONADE. That’s where her megahit “Formation” comes from.
- 6D: [Over/under number?] is PAR. I like this clue, although it really only lands if you’re familiar with the betting term “over/under.”
- 13D: [Person on a journey with Journey] is ROADIE. Or maybe someone driving in a car with The Cars? No, they’d probably be riding in a van or a truck or a trailer.
- 51D: [Key of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”] is E MAJOR. There seems to be a Journey sub-theme today. To mark this occasion, here’s a live performance of that song.
- 54D/55D: [With 55 Down, private places to sleep?] is BUNK BEDS. When I saw that (JUNK) DEALER and (JUNK) ETS could have a potentially impossible rebus square to figure out, I aimed to include a word that rhymes with JUNK somewhere in the puzzle. But then these two answers appeared right next to each other and it felt impossible not to link them together. Either way, I still hope the hint in 22D helped you.
- 59D: [Some characters in the film “Real Genius”] is NERDS. Seems somehow apt crossing JAR JAR BINKS.
- 98D: [Major concern?] is MORALE. I liked this clue enough to ignore duplicating the “major” of 51D.
- 120D: [Miss. place] is USA. I thought it was funny how the abbreviation for Mississippi could create a homophone with “misplace.”
See you next week!