The Magic Show – The New York Times
I struggled with the LINKING RINGS at 47A (but happens at 119A and 104D) probably because I wasn’t expecting a rebus in one place, but also because the entry was RINGS and technically it there is only one RING there. However, if you tilt your head and squint, the entrances intersect and therefore follow one another.
Hints are in theme today, and hints are pretty sweet.
■ 97A: TRIOLETS returns after almost 50 years of absence. One reason could be their relative rarity.
■ 41D: Not a relative of pop music, but of my dear old daddy, or “pop”. The answer today is GRANDFATHER.
■ 96D: CONIES was new to me. Greyed out too.
The thought came out of nowhere: what if a crossword puzzle performed a series of magic tricks for the solver? And on the heels of that came the first of the tricks: A theme entry could be SAW A LADY IN A HALF, and elsewhere you could have LA and DY separated by a black square. Perfect! It had been over three years since my last New York Times Sunday crossword, but suddenly I knew I was back in the game.
After that, however, things got a little… well, trickier. If this were to work, I would have to limit myself to the most basic magic tricks – but how many of them could be properly “performed” in a crossword puzzle? I jotted down a list of them: Making things disappear, making them reappear…the old cup-and-ball trick…the scarves that change color…the rope that you cut and rejoin. I’ve been hoping for a while that I could coax my brain teaser into pulling a rabbit out of a hat, but I couldn’t think of any reasonable way to make this work.
But I found five tricks that I thought would suffice, and I was particularly pleased with the idea of having my LEVITATING MAN floating completely out of the puzzle. That’s when I knew I really had something.
Will and Joel pushed back on one of my quirky tricks: on my first attempt, I had both a coin disappearing and a card magically appearing. They thought it was pretty much the same thing, and they were right. One of them should go. After wandering around a lot, I thought, what if this was a CHANGING MAP? It might work, but what turns into what? Assuming the trick takes place inside a larger word, I can’t exactly turn a SEVEN into a QUEEN. The only possibility, it seemed to me, was if an ace became a king, or vice versa. Sure. These letters seemed friendly enough. I went to my favorite word database, asked for all the possibilities that demonstrated this pun, and came back exactly one example. Not just a good one. An example, period. PEACE and BEIJING. But one luckily was all I needed, and into the grid it went, and from there it was a little jump (more or less) to the puzzle, hope you enjoyed today.
Say hello, Mr. Berlin.