Didn't We Just Have This?

Didn’t We Just Have This?

SUNDAY PUZZLE — Will Nediger is a professional crossword constructor from London, Ontario, who regularly contributes to The New Yorker and other outlets as well as The Times. He said, “I enjoy architecturally challenging constructions — like this puzzle, which was tricky to create, because the theme content had to be placed in a specific order.”

This is Mr. Nediger’s first solo Sunday puzzle of the year, although he’s collaborated on two others. I find it amazing how this theme builds — I made several wrong guesses before figuring out its whole recipe. I found another puzzle on his blog immensely enjoyable, if you have time for a second challenge this weekend.

This fill is so smooth and lively, it felt like I was cruising even though it was not a quick solve. I paused to chuckle at STONER for “High-minded sort?” and ESP for “Sixth of five?” (It took me a minute to come to my “senses” and solve that one.)

47A. This entry was far more popular in puzzles from the 1950s and 60s, which makes me think that it’s time to start calling “Fun functions” SHINDIGS again. (I filled this entry in at a point when the theme was just dawning on me, which made me wonder if 25A, “Body part that humans have that other primates don’t,” might be “shin.” It turns out that we ‘re the only animal with a CHIN, period, and nobody really knows why.)

76A. I read this clue, “Chemical ingredient in flubber,” without knowing that “flubber” was an onscreen invention in “The Absent-Minded Professor.” It’s a portmanteau for “flying rubber,” but recipes indicate that water, glue and BORAX will make you a respectable facsimile (do not try to eat it or levitate).

93A. This is an interesting name debut — I figured out RUSSOLO on crosses and assumed that this “Composer Luigi who pioneered noise music” was probably from the 1960s or later, rather than being an early 20th-century Futurist.

7D. I had “queendom” here, for the “Political unit of ancient Hawaii.” I read about Queen Lili’uokalani some years ago and she left an impression, but she’s from the wrong era; in ancient times the islands were considered a CHIEFDOM.

12D. This entry has always been clued as a pirate and not a “Doughnut similar to an éclair,” but I can’t find any relation between oblong donuts and the high seas (or full-coverage underwear, for that matter). You’ve probably seen a LONG JOHN in a pastry case somewhere, though. (If this clue tempts you to the kitchen, set aside some time.)

There’s no doubt that the arrangement of theme entries today took a lot of strategizing; the blend between asymmetry and symmetry is really interesting and artful. There are four sets of a seed word, clued innocently enough, and a separate, lengthier and more elaborate entry that includes a repetition of that word in an appropriate term or expression. The longer entries are symmetrical, but each one’s seed is hidden somewhere to its north, in such a way that if you solved this puzzle’s clues in order, those repetitions (which rarely occur in a crossword puzzle) might sneak up on you.

The first example in this puzzle stems from an exceptionally mundane entry, 18-Across: “Doohickey.” This solves simply to THING. If you were to move on just a few entries to 27-Across, “Argument extender [ref. 18-Across],” you would find some fighting words — AND ANOTHER THING — that also describe the second appearance of THING in the grid.

Right beneath THING in this puzzle is 23-Across, “Contest with a lot of ‘tied’ scores,” which solves to RODEO (because the little dogies get tied up with a lasso? I don’t know). Just a little further on, at 48- and 87-Across, the clue is “’I’ve been around the block a few times’ [ref. 23-Across],” which is another way of saying THIS ISNT MY/FIRST RODEO. Of course, it’s not this puzzle’s first RODEO either!

I should have picked up on the purpose of 33-Across, “Eerily familiar feeling,” before I reached this puzzle’s showstopper at 70-Across, the “Classic Yogi Berra quote [ref. 33-Across].” I had to get to IT’S DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN to connect each expression to the reiteration that it executed in the puzzle. It’s quite ingenious!

A couple of names in this one might be unfamiliar to a lot of solvers. If Luigi RUSSOLO is new to you, I hope you read up on this fascinating figure, who invented his own experimental musical instruments and wrote a manifesto called “The Art of Noises.” On an unrelated note: I’d like to state for the record that I don’t think 78-Across parsed as AN I is a legitimate crossword answer (I clued it as ANI).

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