Thursday, August 8, 2013
Another double issue of The Nation last week, so no new puzzle this week. We’re discussing overlooked themes over at Word Salad: come join us.
“Good God.” ... ... “Good... God.” The Other Doctor Mitchell heard that muttered several times last night, and no, we were in the kitchen, not somewhere else in the house...
I was finishing up the second puzzle in Kevin Wald's 2013 NPL trilogy: “Texas 741-Step.” I started the puzzle Friday or so, got through the first pass at the clues at the rink Saturday, and on Monday I figured out one of the bonus themes (the “one-step” route: helps that I have in-laws living in that part of Texas). Not only did that complete one of my missing answers, but it then made the acrostic from the down clues obvious, and I was back rolling again.
I had the grid almost completely filled, but the last bits of five or six answers still eluded me, so I sat down last night to thoroughly solve the themework. For each of those partials, I could come up with a few answers that would make sense, but only one of them would fit the themes, which included one type of alterations to some of the across clues, four different alterations to the remaining across answers, an extra word in some of the down clues, an extra letter in some of the other down answers, and a different alteration to the remaining down answers.
All of those were tied into one or more of the theme answers. Like a Patrick Berry, but completely checking the themes instead of completely checking the grid. So for the answers that I couldn’t get from the definition or the wordplay in the clue (which in some cases was ambiguous because of the alterations) I needed to work out how the answers were supposed to be altered.
Untangling that Gordian knot led to the exclamations. Two of the across alterations came pretty easy, the third I had no clue on, and I thought I’d figured out the fourth. Turned out that that fourth was quite a bit more clever than expected, and I didn’t see it until I had worked out the acrostics from the across clues.
Helluva finish. As Sean Yates would say, “Chapeau, Kevin!”