Weve seen a lot of themes where certain words in a set of phrases all have something in common, and this one is no different, except that Ms. Mewers and Mr. Eaton-Salners had CHICANERY in mind when they made this puzzle (see their notes below). This is still the Gray Lady, however, and the puzzle editors apparently threw the theme into a cold shower before they allowed it to see the light of day.
The theme of the puzzle we solved is about making MUSIC, as opposed to something else. The theme entries are clued straight, but the second word in each of the five phrases can also be a musical instrument. For example, at 17A, the answer to the clue Crams (in) is SHOE HORNS, and the answer to the clue at 23A, Some romantic entanglements, is LOVE TRIANGLES.
The set makes an odd quintet as far as making MUSIC goes the revealer MUSIC is the last Across entry but I was impressed that four of the five theme entries made their debuts. In addition, the fill was entertaining and it felt like a very smooth solve to me. Id like to see more from Ms. Mewers.
We submitted this puzzle in December 2018, and it was accepted in April 2019. Its our second collaboration in The New York Times.
Our working title for this puzzle was Instrument Panel, but we informally thought of it as a story about a raunchy rendezvous involving a love triangle, champagne, stilettos and a sex tape.
Since we knew that angle wouldnt fly in a mainstream venue, in our submitted manuscript we clued the theme entries as Heel instruments?, Rom-com plot instruments?, Toasting instruments?, Interviewers instruments? and Procreation instruments? Because those theme clues hint at the dual nature of the instruments in each themer, we thought an additional revealer was unnecessary.
We were a little disappointed to see that the theme clues were edited into more straightforward definitions and paired with a revision of the southeast corner to add the revealer MUSIC. That grid revision unfortunately resulted in some infelicitous words being added to the puzzle.
On the other hand, perhaps that change enhances the Aha! moment by delaying the solvers realization of the connection shared between the theme entries.
In choosing our group of themers, we prioritized examples where the instrument word was used in a completely different sense. For example, a COMPUTER KEYBOARD is very similar in form and function to a piano keyboard, so that was a no go. We also avoided themers like SEA BASS where the two homographs have different pronunciations.
Almost finished solving but need a bit more help? Weve got you covered.
Warning: There be spoilers ahead, but subscribers can take a peek at the answer key.
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