“SAFE WORDS” by Finn Vigeland
Solve it! Twist it! Pull it! Bop it!
Constructor: Finn Vigeland
Theme: Theme answers conceal S&M accessories.
- 17A: COUCH GAG – Feature of the opening credits of “The Simpsons” that changes how the family sits around the TV every episode
- 23A: WHIP MY HAIR – Debut single by Willow Smith that gave me neck pains when I tried it
- 34A: FRENCH CUFFS – Stylish accoutrements to some dress shirts
- 45A: PADDLE BOAT – Popular rental for a Central Park lake
- 52A: MUD SLING – Talk shit about
- 61A: S AND M – 2011 Rihanna song… or a sexual practice that connects five answers in this puzzle
Ben: A very straightforward theme, and yet somehow I can’t picture it showing up in the New York Times… 🙂
Lena: Well, I think they’re missing out. This was indeed a pleasant, clean Monday puzzle.
Ben: I had a little trouble filling in MUD SLING, because SLING seems like a bit of an outlier, size-wise… all the others are accessories, whereas a SLING seems like more of a fixture, no? Perhaps an S AND M enthusiast will be along in the comments to correct me.
Lena: Sex furniture… Yeah, if that was a department in IKEA it would be separate from paddles and gags and such (those would be in the Marketplace). I liked PLUS ONES (57A: Extra party guests) because people totally say that but it’s not a “thing.” Feel me? It’s okay if you don’t– I’m feeling particularly undercaffeinated this morning, and I guess my boyfriend was too because he filled in DIMNUS instead of D MINUS (58A: Worst grade you can get without actually failing) and I didn’t notice. But now we can call each other “dimnus.”
Ben: Nice — I usually just get called dim. I like that there’s a relatively even split between having the S AND M connections come at the starts or ends of theme answers. A little less predictable that way.
Ben: Unusual grid today — that is a lot of cheater squares (ten if I’m not miscounting). I guess it’s a fairly dense theme, and four of them are required by FRENCH CUFFS. It does tend to make for a lot of short fill, though. It’s all come out pretty clean — I didn’t know HILLEL (16A: Birthright trip sponsor, often), but I bet I would have if I were Jewish. Speaking of which, KRAV MAGA (14A: Martial art used widely by the Israeli Defense Forces) never looks like it’s spelled right to me, but it’s a nice entry.
Lena: Totally with you on the funky grid– I swatted the cheaters aside like gnats because, as you said, the resulting 3-letter fill is either cleverly clued, fun despite being dinky, or innocuous to me. I didn’t get EXT (28A: # after a #)– still don’t really. Phone number extension? But look, there’s IRE clued to wrathful perfection (48A: Fury). Mad Max: IRE Road.
Ben: I disagree with the clue for ALOHA (36A: 2015 film that bombed because Emma Stone, a white actress, played an Asian/Hawaiian character) — that didn’t help, but the film bombed because it was TERRIBLE. Like, legitimately one of the worst movies I’ve seen in years. D MINUS would be kind.
Lena: I’ve been spared, it seems, as I’m blissfully unaware of that movie. I’d have to say the only fill that might have earned a D MINUS from me is ER DOC (37A: Professional who helps vics after an EMT). Favorite healthcare entry? ENEMA (47D: Medical buttwashing). Got a good case of the giggles from that.
Ben: Also, it’s not like I’ve been watching the election debates, but I was under the impression that the TEA Party (60A) was associated more with Ted Cruz or Ben Carson than Donald Trump (who’s just a lunatic). I’ll stand to be corrected though.
Lena: My interpretation was that all the horribleness that is the entirety of the TEA party somehow amalgamated and gave rise to the sallow lump of Trump.
Ben: Clue for FLARED UP is 34D: Came roaring back, like the herps — ew. Enjoyed the clues for PAINT (45D: Microsoft ___ (ratchet Photoshop)) and THE OC (20D: 2000s teen drama mostly about Ryan adjusting to how bougie Newport Beach is).
Lena: Is a THROE really a [painful pang]? I just know about THROEs of passion. Maybe if the herps FLARED UP— ew. EW.
Ben: 1A: Invisibility ___ (third Deathly Hallow) (days without a Harry Potter reference: 0) — I laughed. I like it when the puzzle does our work for us.
Lena: <waves excitedly> Hi Caleb! Hi Finn!
Ben: Straightforward but good early-week puzzle. FIN (56D: Appropriate word for me to end this puzzle on (even more appropriate if I were French).