Sometimes you just need a puzzle that fits a certain mood. (eta: non-spoilery intro/outro below the puz)
I'm appending this about ten hours after originally posting because I got a few private comments on this puzzle. Please rest assured that I'm okay (or as okay as any of us are right now?).
I'm one of the many who got into puzzling - or got into it much more in my case - as a pandemic-coping activity. Never did I expect that I would find real community in doing this. I don't mean just excellent mentorship and collaboration, a vast wealth of resources, or smart young people doing innovative things with language and technology (though we do certainly have all that and more) but today I am also thinking about the true friendships I've made with people literally all over the world. You all have made this venture so much more meaningful than I ever thought it would be.
But the very nature of these too-digital, at-fingertip's-length, physically distant, sometimes nameless, faceless, or voiceless connections can really feel fragile. They're too easy to forget or neglect as we try to navigate our way back into what's next. I don't think we'll ever go back to the old normal, and I don't think we know yet what the new normal looks like, but I do believe that it's on each of us to move into that future in a way that preserves, or at least respects the community and connections that we've built.
Thanks for doing today's puzzle, thanks for reading this far, and thanks for being a friend.
In love and puzzling,