I was doing a few puzzles earlier this week in one of my NYT books...Will Shortz's Favorites...and he mentioned a constructor whose puzzles were always fun. Now I can't put my finger on the book, but I'm fairly certain he was talking about Elizabeth Gorski. Today's puzzle, Winter Figure, was no exception.
It was almost too easy, but that was a welcome relief following yesterday's disaster.
As soon as I saw the grid on the screen, I recognized the cute little snowman, complete with top hat. A note at the top reads: The 16 circled letters, starting in square #34 and proceeding roughly counterclockwise, ending at #38, will spell the opening lyric of a popular song. I neglected to read the note (damn small print) and came up with Frosty the Snowman on my own. Initially, though, I had the letters going left to right from top to bottom. When some of the gimmes wouldn't fit, I erased them and let the circled letters fall into place.
Maybe this wasn't so easy for those who don't know all the lyrics. The other theme answers, in song order, are:
3D: Lyric, part 2, after "Was a" (jolly happy soul)
135A: Lyric, part 3, after "With a" (corncob pipe)
16D: Lyric, part 4 (and a button nose)
114A: Lyric, part 5 (and two eyes made out of coal).
Also tied in is 107A: Provider of an old silk hat, e.g. (as depicted at the top of this puzzle) (haberdasher).
What this puzzle lacked in difficulty level, it more than made up for in brilliance of construction. I can't imagine what it took to get the left/right symmetry, the snowman outline, the lyrics, the song title (still keeping the symmetry)...and some fine answers to boot.
The stacks that made up Frosty's forehead, and their lower counterparts, were all good...32A: Pull (influence), 42A: Class in factories (proletariat) and 47A: Avalons, e.g. (Toyotas).
21A: "Dancing With the Stars" winner __ Ohno (Apolo). Never saw the show, but I remember him from the Olympics.
29A: Deli offering (pastrami). When I had the I from 18D: Kind of kick (inside) [NOTE: Oops...that's ONSIDE...thanks, profphil and others), I wanted salami. Couldn't think what two letters could precede it, though. As you may guess, I'm not a pastrami fan. Actually, I don't eat salami, either.
31A: Artificial heat? (toy gun). Good clue.
45A: Photographer Adams (Ansel). Love his work...it's impossible to choose a favorite.
75A: 13 (bakers dozen). Couldn't for the life of me figure where this one was going, until I had a few letters in place.
78A: Dec. holiday plans? (R and R)...always a favorite.
80A: Pump room? (shoe store). Love it, love it, love it. I think I'm just giddy after yesterday.
83A: A wee hour (one o'clock).
90A: Lord's worker (vassal). Identical clue at 144A (serf). I really wanted apostle or disciple before I saw the number of spaces...
138A: Kind of track (tenure). Another clever one.
141A: Herbal tea (tisane). Can't believe I've never heard the word before. Ever.
1D: Holiday party (fiesta), and the related 118D: Holidayish (festive) and 145A: New Year's Eve parties, e.g. (events). None of those describe the holiday gatherings we have or attend.
2D: Homes that may have tunnel entrances (igloos). Very fitting with the subzero temperatures we're having in Colorado.
6D: Luxuriousness (ritz), crossing at the Z with 27A: Shed some light on? (solarize). Odd word, to be sure...but it has a Z!
7D: One who can't have everything? (co-heir). I had everything except the H...must have gone through the alphabet three times before I figured it out. That was the only letter also missing from its cross at 24A: Playwright Fugard (Athol), a name unfamiliar to me.
15D: Snarl unsnarler (hairbrush). Don bathed Dooley and Barnabas earlier today. I unsnarled them, then trimmed their little beards and around their eyes. So much better.
42D: Part of many a test (placebo).
50D: Favorers of the young (ageists). Had this just a week or so ago, so I remembered.
51A: Dish with stir-fried rice noodles (Pad Thai). Great answer, but that's very similar to what I ate when I had food poisoning. Ick.
57D: Accord of 1985? (used car). What a clever clue! I had everything but the E and couldn't figure it out for the longest time.
62D: Bully (strongarm). One word or two?
63D: It may be fit for a king (bedspread). Another clever one. This puzzle is just full of them.
81D: Banks on a runway (Tyra)...fresh from yesterday's puzzle, where she was clued as Banks of note. I like this one better...plus it was a gimme.
104D: Feel one's way around? (palpate).
106D: Timid words (I dare not). I guess I've never been timid, since I've never spoken those words.
109D: 1986 Gene Hackman film (Hoosiers). How could that have been more than twenty years ago?
Three good ones in a row...111D: Not narrow (tolerant), 112D: Tramps (vagrants) and 113D: 1/2 and 1/3 parts (slashes)...took way too long to figure out where that was going. I tried to think of something along the line of slices...with a couple more letters.
Things I didn't know but got from crosses include 19A: Borodin's "Prince __" (Igor), 20A: N.F.L. team for which Barry Sanders played (Lions), 56A: Poker great Ungar and others (Stus), 63A: Rain forests and grasslands, e.g. (biomes), 100A: Cole Porter's "You Don't Know __" (Paree), 123A: "The Oath" author Frank (Peretti)...have heard of him but didn't know that particular work, 149A: "Endymion" poet (Keats)...poetry is a somewhat weak area for me, but nowhere near sports, 35D: Writer Willy who popularized spaceflight (Ley), 53D: "Passion" director (Godard), 55D: French treaty city of 1802 (Amiens), 67D: Long Island Rail Road station (Roslyn), 77D: "The __ Cat" (Tom and Jerry short) (Zoot)...can't say that I remember that one, 89D: Kyle __, "The Terminator" hero (Reese) and 135D: Dr. Octavius, Spider-Man foe (Otto). Note: I haven't checked the grid, so it's very possible that one or more of those is wrong.
That's it for today. Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.