Takeaway Crossword

New York Times bonus puzzle, May 17

I don’t always do the bonus puzzle below the main Sunday crossword, but this one caught my eye; I suppose it was all the asterisk-laden clues, which made it look faintly profane.

But the symbols were part of a rather ingenious puzzle in which the missing letters of the clue (indicated by the asterisk) were also missing in the answer — and yet somehow still managed to spell a bonafide crossword entry.

For instance, 21 Across (Neither young nor ol*) would lead you to conclude that a “D” is missing from the clue and, thus, the answer. The answer is “middle age,” but removing the Ds, you get MILEAGE in the grid. A “G” is missing from 31 Across — “Still feelin* sleepy” — and from its answer, “groggy,” which is entered as ROY.

Holy crap, how do people think of these things?

The only thing that would have been over-the-top clever is if all of the removed letters spelled out something, acrostic-style, when read in the order of the clues. Alas, that was not the case here, as the missing letters for 1 through 16 Across, for instance, were E T E H O S G.

That only occurred to me because, as a kid, I subscribed to Games Magazine when it was edited by Will Shortz. There was occasionally a “Hidden Contest” feature in which — you guessed it — you had to find the contest buried in some other layer of puzzling. 

But now that I think about it, I am a little worried that if I pooled ALL the missing letters together, they could be anagrammed into something meaningful. Sigh.

I’m going to ride my bike instead.

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

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