Surplus Store – The New York Times | #tinder | #pof

82D: Same as 4D, another fun new term for us: HAT HAIR presumably predates the 1970s, and it may even go back to the days when people were just discovering hats.

The title of this puzzle, “Surplus Store,” was a misdirect for me as I assumed that we’d be dealing with a rebus, and maybe even a mathematical rebus. There are a couple of number clues in the theme set — references to 100 percent and five minutes — which also did me no favors.

Thank goodness Mr. Kravis did me a solid, as they say in the puzzle business, and explained his theme in his notes. I will say that the first entry I solved that stumbled me into it was 54A, and I found it quite inscrutable. On the topmost level, the entry made sense: “Officers who woke up on the wrong side of the cot?” are SURLY MAJORS — cranky military guys, got it.

Then I wandered into the spectacular answer to 86A, SURFER BALLS, and everything made sense — just like that. A homophone for Lee Majors didn’t help me, but I know my fur balls, ding ding ding. That recognition, I believe, is the trick to “getting it” today. The clues themselves are wacky and fun, but I most love that secondary play on words — be it a judicial term, sports reference, grammatical tense or tense moment. Less of a head-scratcher than I expected, but much more fun.

The theme here is pretty simple: Add SUR- to the beginning of existing phrases, changing the spelling of the first word each time, and clue the resulting phrases with a pun. Given those restrictions, I was able to come up with only six theme answers I thought were real winners. Regular solvers will know that that’s on the light side for a Sunday puzzle, and conventional wisdom says that the theme does a lot of the heavy lifting in keeping a Sunday-size puzzle from becoming tedious to solve. Rather than shoehorning in more theme entries that I didn’t like quite so much or that broke one of my restrictions, though, I instead tried to design a grid that’s full of lively, junk-free fill to make for an entertaining solve throughout. In the end, this one ended up being just as challenging to construct as any other Sunday puzzle I’ve made. I hope you enjoy it!

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What did you think?


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