Food for Thought – The New York Times
SUNDAY PUZZLE – This is a case where the printed Sunday puzzle intro, which I know isn’t seen by most solvers, has a pretty good teaser for some facets of a formidable grid which I fear will be missed by many people as well. Shame, really, but don’t be discouraged because you are going to be one of the lucky ones.
Timothy Polin, of Central City, Pa., Has been building for the Times since 2011. It’s his 55th grid and his eighth Sunday puzzle, and he’s behind some terrific visuals, like a Thursday in 2013 that I still think of when I think about it. see Mr. Polin’s signature and a 2018 “Jaws” puzzle. In his introduction, Will Shortz writes that “today’s puzzle is not so unusual, but it is near”. I first wondered about this proclamation, but upon closer inspection, I found myself smitten – almost flattened! – by several touches that made this puzzle really crisp and fresh.
There are a lot of fun things going on today – the clues for BOW TIE, SUED and SAM stand out – not too many difficult anecdotes and a few misdirection. I had “tag” instead of TAX SALE and “reserved” instead of BOLTED.
22A. This factoid, which is new to me, might come in handy if you already keep BORAX around the house for cleaning; some sources report that it will suppress the spread of the flames. A lot of people seem to use it in formulas to change the color of the flames without putting them out, so I stick to the fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
79A. This index refers to livestock, which is driven by a person with a PROD.
9D. It’s a dark, spicy, unexpected humor. The “hot wings” in question are wax wings, which were worn by the fiery ICARE when he escaped from the labyrinth of Crete and were melted down by the sun.
57D. This is a start and another addition to tobacco lingo, VAPE KIT, which includes components that have also been in the puzzle, like a pen and cartridge.
Theme of the day
First, there are five sets of circled letters in the horizontal entries at 24-, 32-, 52-, 69- and 85-Across. Also note that 98-Down, at the bottom center of the grid, is shaded in gray, and there is also a reveal at 116-Across.
For me, a few of these entries were particularly easy to grasp fruit, no pun intended (yet): As a New York resident, I knew many presidents were from the EMPIRE STATE. Seeing EMPIRE in circles helped me lock in 85-Across, despite its vague hints. (I may have also had some shrewd crosses here.) “The beginning of some conventional wisdom” here is WHEN IN ROME, ROME circled in letters. At this point, I was a quarter on something, which was the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. (I was right to “fall”, as we will see.)
Then 32-Across became clear: an “end point of a Shinto pilgrimage” is the famous Mount Fuji, with the letters FUJI circled. The “party” at 52-Across is a GALA – GALA – BUSINESS and, at the top of the theme, we have a JAZZ – JAZZ – VOCALIST.
Unless you’re a real fruit keeper, surely you’re on to something by now – all of these circles identify multiple types of apples, going through the vertical centerline of this puzzle. Write down the title of the puzzle “Food for Thought” and gaze at a delicious, healthy apple.
Let’s take a look at 98-Down, which essentially marks the southern tip of the grid: “Who was famous for getting hit on the head with inspiration?” If you’ve already got apples in mind, the natural answer here is Sir Isaac NEWTON, who really cited time spent in an orchard as the inspiration for his law of universal gravitation. Speaking of which, there’s this revealer at 116-Across, in symmetry with the rest of the Apple Clues: LAW OF GRAVITY. And at 104-Across there is one more entries that fit into the theme set schema: Newton’s famous statement, “Eureka!” ” I UNDERSTAND NOW.
Very cool! But, speaking of symmetry, let’s see who hangs out at the northern tip of this puzzle, across from NEWTON. Yeah, it’s ICARUS, at 9D. Read this middle line for another bit of biting humor: ICARUS / LOSER TO / NEWTON. That is, these melting wax wings are no match for gravity.
Are we really kidding about a catastrophic fall like this, WEIGHT MATERIAL (3D)? We are. GO DOWN (39D), we are FREEFALLIN (50D). Sometimes it is enough to laugh; there is no point in fighting a FORCE OF NATURE (60D).
Hanging by a thread?
Subscribers can take a look at the answer key.
Trying to get back to the puzzle page? Right here.
What did you think