Jump to: Tricky Clues | Today’s Theme
THURSDAY PUZZLE — You may be asking yourself, “Why, on this day, does my crossword solve differently than on other days? And why am I asking this now, when it’s not even Passover yet?”
Those are good questions, and the short answer is that today is Thursday. If you’re solving this puzzle the night before, just humor me. I’m pretty sure I know what I’m doing.
For people who solve the New York Times Crossword, Thursday is kind of a wild card day: The theme could be wildly inventive, or it may just be “one harder” than Wednesday, as Will Shortz, the crossword editor, likes to put it. Many solvers — and I count myself among them — look forward to the tricky themes, like rebuses and entries that walk off the page or take an unexpected turn. I see these twisted themes as a sort of palate cleanser. They loosen up my brain cells and prepare me for the vagaries of the Friday puzzle.
Oh, right, the puzzle. I thought that Elise Corbin’s theme was very clever, when I could find it. Maybe I need a stronger telescope.
And now, a comment on the reactions to last Thursday’s puzzle:
I realize that some people just aren’t comfortable with themes that break the mold of how they believe a crossword should work, and that’s perfectly OK. No, really, it is.
Everyone is allowed to have a — and this next part is important — kindly worded and civilly stated opinion. But there is never any reason to respond unkindly to someone who needs help understanding the theme or professes not to like it. We are all at different stages of learning, and it’s hard to imagine someone being belligerent with a person who has merely misunderstood the point.
Commenters on the internet have choices: They can lash out and try to make other people feel as bad as they do; they can get their point across without being mean; or they can quietly scroll by and say, “It takes all kinds.” Here is more information about the kinds of comments that The New York Times allows on its website.
I know that some people will agree with me when I say a theme is clever and some will disagree. That’s fine. But, please: Let’s try not to attack one another or the constructor. Remember that there are human beings behind these keyboards. Above all, this is a game, and games are meant to be fun.
When a theme is this tricky, the crossing entries and their clues tend to be a bit kinder, so that solvers are more likely to succeed. So if the Across entries bamboozle you, take solace in the Downs.
23A. This is one of those “Start to” clues, which sounds as if we’re supposed to consider the phrase a verb. The clue “Start to scream or shout?” is looking for the beginning of the words “scream” or “shout,” and the answer is the letter S (written phonetically as ESS).
46A. If you are not on Reddit: “Ask me anything,” or AMA, is a popular online forum. Most of the time, it’s a Q&A between a celebrity or person of note and the Redditors.
51A. Today I Learned (TIL) that there is a form of chalcedony called SARD that looks a lot like carnelian to me.
56A. This one almost tripped me up, until I remembered the rule about “partner” clues. The answer to this type of clue is a word that is typically partnered with another, separated by the word “and.” In today’s puzzle, “Error’s counterpart” is TRIAL, as in “trial and error.”
70A. Clues such as “[Ignore that edit]” are hinting at words or phrases that would be a synonym of what’s inside the brackets. If editors change something but then change their minds, they can write the word STET on the manuscript.
7D. I wrote in “eel” before AHI as an “Offering on a sushi menu.”
11D. The word “facilities” is slang for toilet, and the English slang is LOO.
Ms. Corbin’s theme is one of those that makes me feel as if I should spill the beans on the theme first, and then explain it.
The revealer at 27D is PHYSICS, the “Science that deals with the phenomenon spelled out by 10 missing letters in this puzzle.” The 10 missing letters, when read from top to bottom, spell DARK MATTER.
Now where, precisely, are those letters? They’re not really missing. They exist, but most of them are inside the black (or dark) squares, with a few of them lying outside the grid on the left side.
For example, the D in DREAD at 1A is just to the left of the entry outside the grid. You have to admit that DREAD makes a lot more sense as an answer to the clue “Pit-of-the-stomach feeling” than READ, which is the word that the solver must write in.
Similarly, the A in AISLES at 9A is under the black square between the entry and 5A, the one that precedes it. This is where I figured out what was going on. I knew that ISLES was not the correct spelling for the answer to “Wedding walkways.” It needed an A, and Ms. Corbin provided it, even if it was hard to see.
I was initially thrown by the letters on the left after I solved the revealer, because if you’re talking about DARK MATTER, then why place three of the missing letters outside the grid? Is it dark there too?
It turns out that I was overthinking things. Sometimes a missing letter is simply a missing letter. But I still feel that this theme might have been truly elevated had the missing letters all been under black squares.
Spoiler alert: If you would like to see an answer key with the missing letters highlighted, XWord Info has kindly provided one.
My first version of this theme wasn’t related to physics at all; it was actually a Marvel-themed puzzle, playing on the idea of the snap at the end of “Infinity War,” when half of the universe’s population disappears.
My theme entries were all phrases with “snap” in them, but the word “snap” was missing, and there was a black square where each “snap” should have been. I ended up shelving it — neither the theme nor the fill was particularly strong — but came back to the idea of missing letters after I’d thought of DARK MATTER as a possible topic.
I enjoy making puzzles to illustrate interesting concepts, both in the scientific world and beyond, so I really wanted to capture the idea of an invisible, hypothetical substance in this puzzle rather than just play on the words “dark matter” somehow. It took a few tries to get the fill streamlined enough, but for the most part, the final theme was as I’d imagined it.
Hope you enjoyed the puzzle, and if you weren’t already familiar with the concept, I hope it was a fun “TIL” (Today I Learned) moment for you!
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