Solving time: 46:09. Under average but also with a little bit of help, if you know what I mean *nudge nudge wink wink.* Medium.
Theme: Each of the three grid-spanning theme answers is one word that consists of three smaller words, clued by a pun that defines all three sub-words literally. Here’s what I mean:
- RECONSIDERATION (17A: Not the main food allotment for one on an intel mission?) = RECON (intel mission) + SIDE (not the main) + RATION (food allotment).
- + + = TEMPERAMENTALLY (36A: Noodle count in one of Arizona’s largest cities?)
- NONCOMMUNICABLE (53A: Sarge’s “Sell my city bonds!” telegram?) = NONCOM (sarge) + MUNI (city bond) + CABLE (telegram). This theme answer was probably the most difficult one to get, especially if you didn’t know that noncom was actually an abbreviation for noncommissioned officer (and not noncommercial) and that muni is short for municipal bond.
There are the types of crossword solvers who will hate today’s puzzle, and there are the types of solver who will find it funny and then move on with their lives. I think I’m in the latter boat. I certainly get why there are people in the first camp; all you see is three different 15-letter words that have no thematic coherence (in other words, there’s no inherent relationship between the words RECONSIDERATION, TEMPERAMENTALLY, and NONCOMMUNICABLE other than their equivalent length) and were taken literally by their sub-parts. I imagine, however, that it’s fairly difficult to find 15-letter words that can be divided into three intelligible words that are actually defined in the dictionary. And, on top of that, the clues were great examples of the wacky nonsense that the NYTimes crossword frequently engages in, so utterly bizarre that they proved rather enjoyable. NONCOMMUNICABLE was a bit of a stretch with its two abbreviated sub-parts, but still took a long time to figure out with a rather pleasing payoff at the end.
The top third of the grid offered little to no resistance, with gimmes like 5A: __ Elba and 14A: Kind of flute. It wasn’t until the middle that I started to groan a little, especially when today’s pair of constructors, Parker Lewis and Jeff Chen, threw a curveball with 31A: Pianist Rubinstein. I don’t think anyone knows him as ARTUR. Everyone, even my classical music nerd friends, call him ARTHUR Rubinstein. The Wikipedia page doesn’t even mention this alternate spelling of his name in its introductory paragraph. Seeing that there were only five spaces in the answer rather than six, I filled in ANTON for the clue, another famous pianist who happens to share the same last name as ARTUR. That cost me some time. Tricky tricky!
In a moment of late-Wednesday-night idiocy, I forgot what upholstery was, so 25D: Upholstery’s stock had me like:
Double references to culinary delicacies, with 22A: Like the cinnamon in babka and 25A: Ingredient in Christmas pudding, and double references to religious “mounts,” with 39A: Mount in Greek myth and 27D: Biblical mount, had me like:
And then ROSHAMBO (37D: Rock-paper-scissors, by another name) was just like…
“Am I a rock in this alternate universe? Or a paper?”
See you tomorrow,
Kenneth, lowly serf of Crossworld