Some of my favorite puzzles have come on the final Sunday of the year. Elizabeth Gorski, the second most prodigious author in my NYT Puzzle database seems to specialize in these. Check out this puzzle called Making a Face from the final day of the 20th Century. The numbers 1 to 12 are arranged in a clock face with the circled clue (12 midnight) representing the hands of the clock pointing straight up. Very clever.
One year later she struck the final bell again with Dropping the Ball. Follow the central clue down to read "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, it's 2002".
Today's Sunday puzzle Winter Figure carries on the tradition. It makes what I think is very good use of the circled letters. The clues are harder than average for a Sunday, but the theme is easy enough to guess and it helps to fill in enough of the circled letters to get one started on the regular clues. I'd forgotten that Frosty was a jolly, happy soul. Now I know. What makes it especially nice is that if you squint and look at the pattern of black and white squares, it's a not bad pixelated picture of a snowman complete with an old silk hat provided by a HABERDASHER.
Some favorite clues: "Pump room" is SHOE STORE. "Here!" is not PRESENT but rather TAKE ONE. "Accord of 1985" is (this one is nasty) USED CAR. "Not narrow" (I like this one) is TOLERANT. "Wolves" turns out to be MASHERS. Watching The Music Man recently helped me get that one.
Today's puzzle makes 148 for Elizabeth since the NYT started publishing in Across Lite format in 1996. That's an amazing output, bested only by Manny Nosowsky's 193. I'm doing some analysis on his puzzles to see if I can get a glimpse into that brain. In the mean time, thank you Elizabeth for another great wrap up to another year.