Hot Off the Press – The New York Times

SATURDAY PUZZLE — Who can begrudge any weekend puzzle that includes a reference to an anthem for the solver of weekend puzzles?

I’m sure there will be people who aren’t on the same sprightly wavelength as Emily Carroll, who strews puns through this grid like a certain mythical hopper scatters eggs, but hopefully her grid will brighten everyone’s day.

There are a lot of really brief, cute and unexpected clues for common fill today, which make for a very lively solve — COP, MIND, SEEK, BROWSER, HABITAT and GRAND are all examples. Not a lot of trivia, although the clue for EM FORSTER is quite intriguing. (He lived a long life, but no evidence that he campaigned for accolades.)

1A: It should surprise nobody to figure out that Muhammad Ali was, among many other things, a prodigious TRASH TALKER. I did learn that there’s an entire album of his poetic bravado out there, if you need some inspiration:

This kid fights great; he’s got speed and endurance
And if you’re signed up to fight him, increase your insurance.

46A: No comment on the portmanteau, EARGASM, except that I find it very witty of Ms. Carroll to place it next to RATED PG.

56A: When I read the clue at 51D, “React to a public scene, maybe,” I thought of social media and went with SHARE, as in “like and share!” (and I’ll bet I’m not the only one). That made this type of flour “atha,” wrong, instead of ATTA, correct. You might find it interesting that this meaning of the term was also how it was clued on its debut in 1943, “Unsorted wheat flour of India.” This seems to be the whole flour preferred for roti, chapati and other flat breads.

58A: I think this is the most unexpected entry in this bottom triplet; the clue had me thinking about airlines and Leonardo da Vinci’s ornithopter. This is lower tech, an ITALIAN FLAG fluttering over Florence. (UNDER THE SEA had a pretty straightforward clue, but the televised Shaggy version was a surprise to me, at least.)

13D: This isn’t a chemical or sales agent, it’s a sleuth or a spy on a case: An OPERATIVE. If it’s a really interesting case, or some spectacular bust goes down, there’s a good chance that there will be a NARRATIVE that features said OPERATIVE.

33D: After your SOMMELIER brings you a delicious cabernet, be sure to take a nice cabriolet home.

41D: It’s been a decade since we’ve seen a PEASANT in the puzzle; it gave me a moment’s pause and then sent me to etymology resources. It seems that peasant and its equivalents (“paisan” has been an occasional entry in recent years) are almost universally meant as insults, but it’s pretty contextual and I’m not sure it’s a loaded term on its own.

My wife, Bridget, frequently asks me to work her name into a puzzle. My rationale for not doing it is that at seven letters long, that’s a lot of grid real estate to give to a proper noun that can’t really be clued in fun ways; so it would inevitably get dinged by the editing team, especially in the extra-selective world of themeless puzzles.

And then I go and make this puzzle that includes “Ernesto” and it’s published on her birthday.

Happy birthday, E̶r̶n̶e̶s̶t̶o̶ Bridget!

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