To the mailbag! I got asked this question at least five times this weekend, here's one randomly chosen letter. Andrew Greene from Newton, MA writes: "Nice puzzle. But I'm 'left' wondering -- am I missing a meta? So many of these names are biblical or ecclesiastical... but I can't find the connection if there is one. Thanks."
Hard as it is to believe, that was the whole theme: everyday phrases that included first names running backward, or in this case to the left. Five men, five women. And scene.
Every now and again I like to make what I call "themed themeless puzzles." There's a connecting thread to all the long answers, but sometimes a very slight one. Since there's no obvious repeated element throughout (adding certain letters, say), it makes getting the long answers slightly harder. Even knowing the gimmick of this puzzle doesn't help you solve those long answers any faster. Therefore, it has more of a themeless feel.
The crossword meta had been on life support until Matt Gaffney resurrected the form five years ago. The idea is simple: solve a crossword, extract some information from the completed puzzle, do something with that information. Eric Albert and Henry Hook made some stellar metas back in the late 80s, early 90s. Nowadays, everybody's doing them. (Here's one of mine that I rather liked). It's gotten to the point where even if there isn't a meta (and they're almost always announced, mind you), solvers have become conditioned to look for something that just isn't there. We've become a nation of John Nash-esque crossword solvers! Stop the madness people! Don't think that the acrostic in this write up, that is to say the first letter of each paragraph, means that you should I THE T'S! Where does it all end?
Share the puzzle. New one on Thursday.
UPDATE: Posted the wrong version of this puzzle. Files are fixed now.