Since I began constructing, I've enjoyed playing tricks with the grid: having phrases start on the right and end on the left, words floating outside the grid, nonlinear theme entries, islands, phrases that can only be read in a mirror—well, you get the idea. Looking back, the 14th grid I constructed (months before my first puzzle was published anywhere) had the phrase LOOKING UP rising from the SE corner. Today’s grid is a redux of that early puzzle with four phrases rising from the bottom of the grid but, instead of looking up, these are going up. I hope you were able to (1) rise above this little trick and (2) enjoy the challenge of solving something a little different today!
This theme feels perfect for a Friday. I'd say the rising gimmick is tricky but not frustratingly so, and all four theme entries are fresh and lively—my favorites are HOT AIR BALLOONS and LIFE EXPECTANCY. Stu also did a great job with the grid, making sure to include plenty of 6s, 7s, and 8s rather than just the usual assortment of 3s, 4s, and 5s. I also find it interesting how the fill has both A DEUX and ADIEUX—certainly different enough French words to include in the same puzzle, but curious that they share so many letters.