NYT Crossword for Thursday, December 8, 2022 by Grant Thackray

Grant Thackray notes:

I love gimmick puzzles wherein you have to check out what's unusual with the layout or the theme clues, but sometimes once that gimmick is revealed, the remaining theme answers become easy because they follow the same pattern. So I'm really glad to have come up with a puzzle where the gimmick is different on each theme answer but still follows a cohesive theme.

The original idea for this puzzle was to take eye-patchioed fictional characters and cover their "I" with a black square, such as N[ ]CKFURY, SNAKEPL[ ]SKEN, ELLEDR[ ]VER, and LONGJOHNS[ ]LVER. A few snags arose, such as not being able to find enough that seemed ubiquitous enough to name-drop, as well as realizing that Long John Silver didn't have an eye patch.

Robert Newton's portrayal of the character in the 1950 "Treasure Island" created the pop-cultural archetype of the pirate we see today, but he (and his book counterpart) never wore an eye patch or hook hand, just a peg leg. The first adaptation of "Treasure Island" I saw as a kid was Disney's animated "Treasure Planet," in which Silver had a cyborg eye, hand, and leg, so I assumed those were all sci-fi versions of the original's prosthetics.

Jeff Chen notes:

Ever wonder what a PIRATE would look like if Salvador Dali painted one? Look at the grid below.

As with most of Dali's works, I appreciate the visual dreamscape but rarely understand what's going on. Today, Grant interprets an eye patch as an "I patch," blacking out a single letter eye that goes through LONG JOHN S(I)LVER. That's clever!

The "hook hand" took me a while. Think FLUSH ... as in a poker hand. That's a big stretch, but what would have been better? HAND is the obvious choice, but you try to make a hook shape out of four letters. It's possible, but such a stubby weapon might strike more amusement than fear into the hearts of your victims.

PEG / LEG was the most satisfying. I struggled with what letters were "correct," but once I thought through SHAKE A LEG -> PEG replaces LEG, making it a PEG LEG, I clapped my flush hand down on the table.

This disparate triplet of visuals easily beats three of a kind.

Debut entries like MID JULY cause many difficulties in scoring for our Word List. What's next — LATE FEBRUARY? SECOND WEEK OF SUMMER? We've found that a KISS (keep things simple, stupid) system serves constructors best, but it's not always easy to categorize entries.

As much as I love sci-fi and superhero works — Samuel L. Jackson's NICK FURY is badass — I like Grant's swerve, eschewing eye-patchioed characters that even this dork wouldn't immediately recognize. (I'm ashamed to say that I've never seen Escape from New York, but not enough to suffer through Kurt Russell's "acting.")

Although the PIRATE elements required some effort to understand, what avant-garde art doesn't?

* This article was originally published here


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