SATURDAY PUZZLE — It is always such a pleasure to solve a Robyn Weintraub puzzle, but rarely do I get to do her commentary. This is only her second Saturday grid, and it’s possible that omniscient Deb times her vacations to maximize her Weintraub columns. (Speaking of, shout out to Deb for taking my last two weekends; she is a benevolent goddess.)

I freely confess that if I had to decide whether today’s solve would come on a Friday or a Saturday I’d be unable. But what does it really matter? Either way, this was a clean, silky smooth puzzle with enough misdirection to challenge me as I knocked the rust off my vacation pen (I had to edit my first four entries, thank you very much), and plenty of the very dry, but gentle, wit and subtle self-references that make Ms. Weintraub’s cluing so distinctive.

My hunch here, continuing in the Friday vs. Saturday vein, is that the same fill word that would be clearly clued at the beginning of the week gets a vaguer treatment on Friday, and a downright devious indicator the next day. My example here would be MEME, post-2010 (this entry was clued as “Same, in French,” or some variation thereof, going back to the ’50s). On a Monday, you might see “bit of viral web content”; on a Friday, “Repeatedly reposted item.” Today we had “One gets shared a lot,” which instantly struck me as “germ,” which was hard to shake off as the puzzle filled in.

I also had “river” incorrectly at the beginning of STEAMBOATS, “dog” for LOP, and “tase” for LASE, all in the early stages of solving, but everything eventually got sorted. The clues for ITEM, DJS, CLUE, EGG and others really sang; AVIATOR and GARBAGE BAG made me giggle.

20A: I had “creed” here for the longest time, on the off chance that such a usage, sort of an abbreviated “decreed,” might exist. “Proclaimed” can be CRIED in the town crier sense of the word, and it makes LEVIS at 6D work.

43A: I got stuck on looking for an alternative to “ranch” dressing that fit in four letters, and came to this only once all the crosses filled in, when I definitely face-palmed at not knowing CAPE house. City dwellers aren’t exposed to many single dwellings, but this house style (originating in Cape Cod) seems to be pretty much what any of us would draw (as a child, or as a city dweller) when asked to visualize a “house.”

55A: The proximity of this clue to OLD at 57A might have contributed to me misinterpreting “senior” here — although I instantly thought of this story about an 88-year-old triathlete that I had seen earlier this year (she’s still racing, as far as I know).

I was far afield though, in this case, as Ms. Weintraub just meant high school seniors, who (I guess) aren’t supposed to go to JUNIOR PROM. I don’t remember these things, honestly.

1D: Just to note the endearing crossing of TGIF and ITS A LIVING, which is, surprisingly, a debut. There was almost another today, AMAIN with ALEE, but they missed by a couple of rows.

12D: I suppose including the year in this clue should have tipped me off to PENCE here; I’d never heard of this book (and I’m not the instant history type, as far as my reading preferences). Everyone wants to look prescient — we’ll see.

21D: Funny coincidence: This entry made its debut last week as a theme answer in a terrific Monday grid, clued straightforwardly to refer to “The Wizard of Oz,” which was made into a movie almost 80 years ago. Today we have a winky, misleading reference to 15A, ITEM. “Pair that clicked in film,” in this case, is RUBY SLIPPERS.

47D: We often get clues that contrast Roman gods with their Greek counterparts; Sol is the sun god, the Roman form of Helios, who didn’t fit. Instead of Roman and Greek, we needed to think of night and day and use LUNA, the Roman moon goddess.

This puzzle originally featured DOUBLE DIPS instead of DOUBLE WIDE. I was sorry to lose DOUBLE DIPS, which I found considerably more entertaining, but it was accompanied by a corner of less than stellar fill: TSE, ESME, SIETE, DPI. I traded those in for DOUBLE WIDE and a far better corner overall.

Recently I’ve had a few grids sent back with the request to revisit a corner or two due to a few meh entries. I’ve been told that the bar continues to be raised on accepted puzzles, which is a great thing for solvers — and forces me to become a stronger constructor in the process. It’s also made me get far more aggressive about removing junk from my word list. But with each Roman numeral or obscure government agency acronym that I delete, I can’t help but wonder if that’s the bit of unsightly glue that could someday hold together a 54 word masterpiece. Or, more realistically, yet still lamentably elusive … a perfectly nice Sunday puzzle.

Happy almost New Year. May you find solutions to all your puzzles in 2019 (crosswords or otherwise).

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