Hair Highlighting Technique – The New York Times

FRIDAY PUZZLE – Let’s say you’re trying to improve your solving and you’ve managed to push yourself to the point where the themed puzzles are starting to get a little ho-hum. Sure, Thursday themes are fun, but are you brave enough to take the plunge into Friday’s themeless crossword puzzle, which happens to be the second-toughest puzzle of the week?

Of course you do. There is nothing to fear here. In fact, this crossword by Erik Agard and Brooke Husic is a great way to take that leap. Their grid might look a little different because it uses mirror symmetry (as opposed to diagonal symmetry), but you’ve probably seen this before. The clues are harder, but there’s nothing here that you can’t handle, even if you don’t solve it all at once or need the crosses to help you.

You have this.

Let’s take a closer look at this puzzle after the spoiler alert.

First of all, I would just like to say that this puzzle got me to 20A’S WEIGHTED BLANKET. I love mine and I sleep so much better thanks to it. The theory behind the blanket is that gentle pressure on the body can help calm nerves and reduce anxiety. You also get a decent drag when trying to fold it or carry it to and from the washing machine.

The WEIGHTED BLANKET is combined with the HEAVY SECURITY of 51A to form a small “theme”, which is not expected on a Friday but gives the puzzle a stylish touch.

The best part about solving a themeless puzzle is that having no theme gives the builder more room to include long, shiny entries, such as STREET FOOD, CANDY HEART, IN ABSENTIA, HASHTAGS, and SWEEP. I knew the hair highlighting technique, but I had a hard time getting the whole word out of my brain and fitting it into the puzzle: “AGE…BAYAGE…BALAYAGE!” Thank goodness for the nice crossings.

17A. In this puzzle, the “music group” is not a group but a classification. The answer is ALTOS.

23A. If you haven’t seen the 2019 movie “Parasite” yet, stop what you’re doing, find it on a streaming platform, and watch it now. The film is disturbing but brilliant. Actress LEE Jung-eun played the role of housekeeper, Moon-gwang.

24A. A phrase synonymous with the “‘Word is…'” clue is THEY SAY, and yes, of course, I’m going to play you a song from “Hamilton” that starts with that entry.

36A. I freely admit that I watched this one. I’m not sorry because it’s Latin, and it’s Friday. I cut myself a lot of slack on Fridays, and I can’t recommend doing it enough. The Leporidae family includes rabbits and HARES.

44A. Clever. “Office filing cabinet? sounds like we’re supposed to think of a cover or a notebook with a report in it, but this clue is about binding, like stopping someone from doing something. The answer is bureaucracy.

1D. I love puzzle clues. “Item often wrapped after purchase” is a SHAWL.

4D. If there were things I needed to learn as a kid that weren’t included in my formal education, I could always rely on Monty Python to fill in the gaps. I first learned the word SNOG from the band’s ‘The most horrible family in Britain’ skit – which I would like to publish, but the family was really horrible.

29D. Wow, that was tough. “Making a lead balloon? it looks like we’re making something that won’t fly because it’s made of lead (pronounced “lehd”), but we’re not even in the neighborhood with that assumption. The word “lead” (pronounced “leed”) in this clue means to be ahead, and “balloon” means to expand or grow. So “make a lead balloon?” really means RACE AHEAD.

33D. “Style points? isn’t about fashion advice, it’s about the dots on STILETTOS heels.

The New York Times Crossword has an open submission system, and you can submit your puzzles online.

For tips on how to get started, read our series, “How to Make a Crossword Puzzle.”

Resolution almost done, but need a bit more help? We have what you need.

Warning: There are spoilers ahead, but subscribers can take a look at the answer key.

Trying to return to the puzzle page? Here.

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