I’ve wanted to do a theme of this type for a while, but haven’t had the inspiration. However, when I found this revealer it was an obvious one: the “WILD GOOSE” part of the revealer is a perfect cryptic-esque clue for the hidden anagram in the other theme entries.
As usual, this puzzle was re-worked a few times before publication: various iterations of various quadrants, changed theme entries, etc. If it would be interesting (likely only for beginner constructors), I’d be happy to write some more about my process. Below the embed I give some stats and high-level thoughts, which would form the basis for an expanded commentary.
Spoilers be here!
Theme: A WILD GOOSE CHASE as the revealer for three hidden anagram theme entries. Simple. I love this wordplay, but your mileage may vary. What I really like, though? Check out those three theme entries again: KISSES GOODNIGHT, GOES ON THE LAM, and WAVES GOODBYE. They all may at first suggest a theme related to leaving someone or something, right? I thought this was a nice bonus, as the solver may, in a way, be led on their own WILD GOOSE CHASE regarding potential themes.
Debuts: Five entries in this puzzle have never been published in an NYT puzzle: 22A, 19D (both of which don’t surprise me, but was certainly unexpected) and then the three theme entries (which does surprise me, as they’re great ‘in the language’ phrases).
- There’s a potential duplicate in 18D’s clue and 61D’s answer. I purposefully left this in, for two reasons: (i) 61D partially uses a different definition of the word, and (ii) the two entries are on completely different parts of the grid.
- There was one duplicate I removed: the original clue for 63A was “Top tier figure”. An obivous dupe with the nearby 41A. I vastly prefer this original clue, especially with the entry crossing 58D. Alas, it had to go.
- While I generally like cross reference clues, I know that many people despise them. As such, I limited it in this puzzle to just 7D and 30D; a cross reference that really needed to be in place as the entries are quite boring on their own.
- I had also considered clueing 60A with a cross reference to 42D (something along the lines of “Device on which you might hear many a 42-Down”).
- Is 25A a cross-reference, or self-referential, or meta, or …?
Entries of concern: entries that I like, but gave me doubts. They remain in the puzzle only because during test solving people either had no problem with them or liked them also:
- YAA crossing BASRA: Yaa Gyasi is not totally obscure, but certainly not a give-away for the difficulty level I was going for (Tuesday-ish). I really wanted to keep her in the puzzle, so the question was: is BASRA sufficiently well-known? From test solvers, it appears so (which is also a bonus, given that it’s add an extra non-Western item into the puzzle).
- MEEMAW crossing SHAWM, REEVE and EMILIO: I’m a white Western male in my late 30s, so Christopher REEVE and EMILIO Esteves are total give-aways and (to me!) pleasant memory-triggering entries. But are they accessible enough for others — especially with the puzzles main ‘downer’: SHAWM nearby? I had never heard of MEEMAW, which crosses all three of these, so that significantly complicated matters. Luckily, my test solver only had a small hiccup here that was gettable without too much worry.
- CINC crossing COMOROS: As a recent West Wing binger, Comander in Chief (CINC) was a given. Again, was it good enough for others when crossed with COMOROS? Test solvers said yes, luckily, as I really wanted to keep COMOROS in the puzzle, which was one of the very few workable options for crossing two theme entries.
- ATF crossing ATARI: If I ever see ATARI during construction, I assure you it’s going in my puzzle. Crossing ATF, though? That was a demerit, for sure, but worth it considering the very lacklusture alternatives.
- AFTS, DRATCH and TSARDOM: All of these I was unsure about. AFTS seemed like an obscure abbreviation, but nobody had any problems with it. I’ve heard of Rachel DRATCH… but have sufficient other people? TSARDOM in itself I have no problem with, but I really wanted to keep this ridiculous clue in the puzzle. As you can see, they all remain: evidence that my test solvers had no problems with these individual entries. I just made sure to clue the crossings as fairly as possible.