If you worked your way down the grid today, you got a nice warm-up with 23-Across, “Side hustle for a hair stylist?” Think of another word for tresses or curls, like locks. That second gig might be as a LOCKSMITH.
If your first sortie with this theme was at the bottom of the grid, you might not have grokked the theme as well. That’s what happened to me, anyway, at 118-Across: “Side hustle for a drill instructor?” I figured out BASE COACH from the crosses but got fixated on pH levels, base versus acid, and could not figure out what a drill instructor had to do with chemistry. (The BASE here, of course, connects a military exercise leader to a ballgame adviser.) It took me a little while to shake off my misstep and get into the groove of these puns.
The rest of them are straightforward and lovely, with clean connections. I especially loved the therapist side hustle — it epitomizes this kind of wordplay, doesn’t it? — and the span entry at 67-Across, which took me a moment to reconcile but really is a knockout.
Daniel: Like many new constructors I began in earnest during the 2020 lockdown, since all of opera went on an extended hiatus. My first mentor was Brad Wilber, who in addition to being a terrific teacher is also a huge opera fan. With his help I had my debut publication this year. Through Brad, Doug and I were introduced virtually last year. I was eager to learn more, had innumerable questions, and wanted to collaborate when possible, and Doug and I hit it off beautifully. His generosity and willingness to help me hone my constructing chops has been a wonderful gift. We still trade theme ideas and chip away at them in a glacial way.
I approached Doug with this idea after coming up with a fun clue in a themeless puzzle for TRIP ADVISOR [Personal injury lawyer?] and wondering if there might be a theme worth exploring. We went back and forth with an ever-expanding list, had to kill a few darlings (CROSS TRAINER [Catholic schoolteacher?]), and came up with this very fun theme set. Doug’s experience in refining a theme set was incredibly valuable.
Given all the alternative careers and side hustles people have had to adopt due to the changing times, it seemed very timely. Performers in particular have had to reinvent themselves and develop new skills, and many have faced the grim reality of how quickly their livelihood can be taken away. The stigma of having side jobs and parallel careers has really been torn down, for the better. Those in the arts have had to be immensely creative and improvisatory. Fortunately that is all part of the training.
Doug: So glad I got to work with Daniel on this and a few other projects. And I’m very much looking forward to a time when we …….