SUNDAY PUZZLE — Today’s big puzzle, Elizabeth A. Long’s Sunday debut, seems to be inspired by the upper crust, the 1 percent of the 1 percent, the glitterati. Have you ever coveted a shiny status symbol, only to attain it and find that there was little of substance to keep your attention? Fortunately, in this case there is far more than meets the eye.
This quirky and excellent Sunday puzzle proclaims its theme in its title, “See 68-Across,” although you still have to solve the clue that’s there: “Supercilious sort.” At first, my mind went to all manners of snobbishness, but nothing I thought of fit the bill.
The theme clues are an interesting hybrid of a cryptic and a rebus. Each of six theme entries have two corresponding clues, one across, one down. The across entry can be solved independently, although the answer might not really stand alone as a phrase. For example, at 55A, “Mattress tester’s compensation?” solves to SLUMBER PAY, not really so funny on its own; but I thought 103A, “Hoped-for conclusion by someone with sore knees?,” was quite cute on a Sunday — EARLY AMEN, so those of worshipful heart but heretical joints could ease their suffering.
The question mark on each theme across clue indicates the presence of more than just tepid humor, though. For the punch line you really need the addition of some letters, and here is where those down clues come in. Let’s take the entry 55A again, but add its corresponding down clue at 59D. “With 55A, big sleepover.” This one is not terribly hard to figure out, given SLUMBER PAY — my mind went to “slumber party” when I answered the across clue, although I didn’t see its relevance at that point. You might have initially thought this was a real rebus, and the ART had to share a square, but actually, 59D is three boxes — entered as ART — and you read this combination of clues as the phrase (across) SLUMBER P — (down) ART — (across) Y. And, as a result of these directional shenanigans, you get an actual word at 59D: ART.