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After Words: 3229 | The Nation

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Word Salad

Kosman and Picciotto on their Nation puzzle, cryptic crosswords, wordplay and puzzles in general.

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After Words: 3229

Last Monday we offered hints for Puzzle #3229, but no actual answers. Now that the solutions have appeared, we can comment on the technicalities and aesthetics of some clues, and explain how some clues work. We hope this will be of interest to the whole spectrum—beginning solvers and experts alike.

9A TEACART  Milk producer adopts vehicle—it might roll by around 4:00 (3,4)

Defining TEACART without mentioning, well, tea or cart was a little tricky, like playing Taboo. We were proud of this one.

18A FOREST  Wood that’s most in favor? (6)

On the surface, “most in favor” means “most popular”, but in the wordplay there is a jokey superlative of “in favor” in the sense of “for”.

27A TIGHTER  Boxer, switching truth value, gets more drunk (7)

Admittedly, it’s not entirely clear whether FIGHTER or TIGHTER is the intended answer, but we liked this clue’s unusual wordplay enough to let it slide. Also, the first letter is checked by 17D, so this is not a fatal flaw.

28A STEPHEN SONDHEIM  Composer with spouse’s child eating chicken—he is in shadowy surroundings (7,8)

The wordplay is interestingly symmetrical: a charade where each part is a container.

We liked the idea of featuring Stephen Sondheim in one of our puzzles. He is not only a brilliant composer and lyricist but also one of the earliest constructors of so-called “variety” cryptic crosswords in the United States. We’ll write more about him in a future post, but for now we’ll point out that his last name anagrams to “hedonism.”

1D MOTHPROOF  Swab around half of thin housetop made of cedar, perhaps (9)

Invoking cedar made it easier to define this than it could have been. Webster’s Second International Unabridged Dictionary lists the trickier WALLABY-PROOF.

14D LAST LAUGH  Endure Los Angeles with expression of disgust—that’s what winners get (4,5)

This would work better if the answer were THE LAST LAUGH. Some solvers would also object to the fact we broke this up as LAST+LA+UGH, with the first word being the same in the solution and in the wordplay. Finally, the surface sense of the clue is not all that clear. Certainly someone could improve on this! Please post your ideas in the comments.—HP

I have no problem with the LAST duplication, since it’s used in entirely different senses, and even different parts of speech (“ultimate,” adj., vs. “endure”, vb.) It’s no more objectionable than a regular double-definition clue, in my view.—JK

Oh, I have no problem with the LAST duplication either! I was referring to the views of “some solvers.”—HP

16 SNARE DRUM  Execute one curve in reverse, as part of the marching band (5,4)

The last six letters of this entry are instantly recognizable if you’ve seen The Shining.

17D CILANTRO  Herb crashed into Carl (8)

“Herb” is a name in the surface reading, but a common noun as the definition. This is a trick we are sure to re-use some day!

That’s all from us for now. If any part of the annotated solutions to this puzzle don’t make sense to you, this is the place to ask your questions! If there are clues you especially liked, let us know!

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