Literally So

New York Times, Aug. 30

I have to say, this was one of the more challenging puzzles I’ve come across recently. Literally so.

There was a double trick this week in that you first had to fill in the missing letters in the theme clues. Then you had to realize that those missing letters spelled a word that was key to answering the clue.

Perhaps the best example is 36 Across, “ANTI–VERNMENT UN–ST.” The missing letters here are G, O, R and E — GORE — which gives you “ANTIGOVERNMENT UNREST.” What happens if you take the gore out of antigovernment unrest? BLOODLESS REVOLUTION.

The same goes for 70 Across, “P—ARY CARE PHY-ICIANS.” The missing letters spell RIMS — and what happens if you take the rims off of primary care physicians? You get DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS. For 84 Across, the “FI-TH WH–L” has no FEE; that means you’ve got a SPARE, NO EXPENSE (comma is mine).

The others were a little esoteric. The “W–THL-SS R-AD-TER” of 121 Across is a WORTHLESS ROADSTER — minus the OREOS. That gives you LEMON DROP COOKIES (a worthless roadster is a lemon, but the cookies have been dropped).

And I’m still turning over in my head 98 Across (“WHAT A -ANDA DOES IN -EIS-RELY FA-HION”); the answer is EATS SHOOTS AND LEAVES, a famous punctuation lesson and bestselling book title, but I’m unsure how PLUS — the missing letters from the clue — fit in. Same goes for 52 Across, “AR–CL-,” where I’m assuming the missing letters are TIE. The answer is THE MISSING LINK, but how that TIEs in to “ARTICLE” I’m not really sure.

Also of note was 34 Down, a quintessential Will Shortz clue for anyone who ever subscribed to Games Magazine or listens to the Sunday morning puzzle on NPR. (If Will didn’t actually write it, the crossword authors should be congratulated for the nod to his style.) Will is constantly anagramming things (and thus forcing you to anagram them as well); in this case, a “Company name that becomes another company if you move its first letter to the end.” The answer is AVIS (which then transforms into VISA). It could have been clued as “Rara ___,” or even as “Alamo competitor.” But I’m glad it wasn’t.

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

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