Solution to Evan Birnholz’s Jan. 1 crossword, “Out With the Old, In With the New” – Lifotravel

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I had hoped to open 2023 by looking forward to new puzzles, but first I need address a problem with the last puzzle of 2022. Print subscribers who solved the “Santa’s Workshop” variety suite in The Washington Post Magazine found that the bottom line of clues in Puzzles 3 and 4 were inadvertently cut out due to a production error. It was an especially infuriating misprint given that it was the final edition of The Magazine, so I no longer recommend getting a physical copy as a keepsake.

Still, it was heartening that many Magazine solvers who wrote to me were able to complete and enjoy the suite anyway. Crossword fans are a persistent bunch — you think a row of missing clues will stop them? The correct copy is available at this link, so that’s where I would solve it if you haven’t done so.

Starting this week, my puzzles will be published in the Arts & Style section of the newspaper, and they will continue to be online in the usual place. I hope the experience will still be enjoyable whichever medium you choose for solving them.

It’s the dawn of a new year, so of course we’re celebrating that at Puzzle Headquarters. Today’s crossword comes with instructions: “This puzzle’s new letters spell out an apt phrase. The old letters spell out another apt phrase.”

Ten phrases have had their first letter changed to create wacky phrases:

  • 23A: [Money you get for a strong poker hand?] is FLUSH FUNDS, changing the first letter of slush funds.
  • 25A: [The wild spree of a cellular messenger?] is RNA RAMPAGE, changing the first letter of on a rampage.
  • 42A: [Gag about how many people it takes to change the devices of a whole chandelier, maybe?] is EIGHT-BULB JOKE, changing the first letter of lightbulb joke.
  • 50A: [Knight who slays with a musical ax?] is SIR GUITAR, changing the first letter of air guitar.
  • 71A: [Deluges of dogs?] is HOUND WAVES, changing the first letter of sound waves.
  • 73A: [Takes bad golf shots quite often?] is SHANKS A LOT, changing the first letter of “Thanks a lot.”
  • 90A: [Course where people wear frat party robes?] is TOGA CLASS, changing the first letter of yoga class.
  • 98A: [Sitcom character from Melmac sitting next to some books, say?] is ALF ON THE SHELF, changing the first letter of Elf on the Shelf.
  • 118A: [What pirates say to their leader when they want a type of whiskey rather than grog?] is RYE CAPTAIN, changing the first letter of “Aye, captain.
  • 121A: [“Move your butt” and “Shake your booty,” e.g.?] is TUSH ORDERS, changing the first letter of rush orders.

The circled, new first letters in the grid spell FRESH START, apt for phrases that have gotten new beginning letters. But because I wanted an extra layer to the puzzle, the first letters of the original phrases spell SO LAST YEAR. No more New Year’s resolutions about taking yoga classes; in 2023 we’re doing toga classes.

Some other answers and clues:

  • 85A: [Pilot’s hot spot?] is GAS OVEN. One of my test-solvers mentioned to me that whenever you have a theme full of wacky phrases, semi-long answers with pun-style clues can be sort of distracting if they run in the same direction because you might think they’re involved in the theme. However distracting it might have been, I decided to keep this clue because a) I liked it, and b) I wasn’t sure when GAS OVEN would come up again since it’s never appeared in any of my puzzles until now.
  • 110A: [Goddess who offers Zagreus the Owl Pendant in the video game “Hades”] is ATHENA. I’m now up to three “Hades”-related clues since I began playing the game last year. The other two were about Artemis and Ares, so all of them so far have been “A” gods. Assuming the pattern holds, the next one will be about Aphrodite.
  • 7D: [“Game of Bowls” painter Matisse] is HENRI Matisse. There’s a Matisse exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through January 29. My parents were in town recently and they got to see it.
  • 82D: [Treats that would be apt desserts for a certain board game tournament] is CHESS PIES. I don’t believe I’ve ever had one of these, but I understand it’s a Southern dessert.
  • 88D: [Giant feat?] is NO-HITTER. It’s a giant (little G) feat, but also a feat for a pitcher on the San Francisco Giants.

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