David P. Williams’s new construction might give you déjà vu.
SATURDAY PUZZLE — This is David P. Williams’s second crossword for The New York Times, after an August debut that also ran on a Saturday. As Mr. Williams promised, both puzzles have identical grid patterns, and this seems to be the second installment of a series inspired by Wallace Stevens’s poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” Who doesn’t like a touch of suspense with their solve? Only one comment on the Wordplay post for the August grid mentioned a Stevens reference, but it didn’t elucidate, and I don’t see a connection between the poem and either puzzle. It might be hidden in the geometry of the puzzle itself, since that’s a constant, or in the crosshatch of entries in its center. If anyone finds bread crumbs, please share them.
Today’s construction is excellent and pretty difficult, although not as tough overall as Ryan McCarty’s morass of stumpers from a week ago. I had the most trouble in the same place as in Mr. Williams’s August puzzle, the southeast corner, which seems like a coincidence. But we’ll see what happens when we get the next one.
16A. The hyphen in “Run-down” makes it an adjective. There’s also a verb form, “run down,” and a noun, “rundown,” which is an idiom like “lowdown” or “skinny,” meaning the real scoop. “Run-down” means worse for wear or, in this puzzle, DECREPIT. I love the sound of this word; in Latin, it means “of cracking, or breaking,” like dry, old, dusty bones.
19A. It sounds like we’re looking for a Janus word, or contronym, here; “Acute … or the opposite of acute.” However, there’s wordplay in “acute”; in the clue, it either means “serious,” or GRAVE, or is an acute accent — as on the “é” in “déjà vu.” The opposite of an acute accent is a GRAVE accent — as on the “à” in “déjà vu.”
31A. “Yo-yos, in a way” had me thinking of roller coasters or seesaws or any number of things that aren’t an actual yo-yo in the hand of someone while she WALKS THE DOG — neat trick.
35A. This is one of two three-letter entries in this corner, both of which I popped in confidently and wrongly, causing great frustration. “Part of a mic check” had to be “one” or “two,” I figured, because that is how you do it. I went with “two” after figuring out 35D, but it is actually TAP (is this thing on?).
51A. The first letter of this definition of “Value” is the last letter in 47D, “Some bank deposits,” the other three-letter entry in this corner. I figured that “Value” would be “esteem,” and “Some bank deposits” would solve to “ore.” This took forever to unravel: “Value” is ASSESS, as in “to check for value.” Then, “Some bank deposits” are OVA, which took me by surprise.
2D. The “Secret code?” in this clue is the “code” of silence that is kept by adherents to OMERTA. You might think of the Mafia, but the word applies to groups of people all over the world who tend to keep their affairs private.
10D. This is a cute pun: A “Member of a ‘grand’ trio?” is a PIANO LEG. I never considered why huge pianos have only three legs; apparently, it makes them easier to move. I would never have guessed this, either — I got lost in thought about the three zeros in a thousand.
31D. Another entry that I wouldn’t have thought of without a lot of letters from crossing entries. “‘Hansel and Gretel’ setting” here is WOODLAND, which the Black Forest certainly is.
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