Location, Location, Location

New York Times, Sept. 26

First off, thanks so much for the support for my first NYT-size puzzle. I haven’t gotten a lot of specific comments on it, but the 10 Facebook “likes” are good enough for me. Since I’m the only one of my friends who does crosswords, I can only humbly assume complete strangers have solved the grid and found it worthy. I hope to have another one soon — though I doubt it will be as visual or self-referential as the puzzle today.

The grid by Pamela Amick Klawitter comes with a note that basically says the eight theme answers are paired with eight sets of circled letters. I tried to illustrate this with a photo and four very old highlighters, with less than stellar results. (The pink marker looks like orange, and with only four colors, I had to use each highlighter twice, which made the attempted color-coding a little confusing.) Suffice to say, the pairings are all about location.

So, let’s start with a straightforward pairing: 91 Down, “City chiefs” — MAYORS. “MAYO” is in circles running down the left side of the grid … aha! MAYO on the side. But what does is pair with? After a little solving, it matched up with 22 Across, “Specification in a salad order”: DRESSING ON THE SIDE. Another easy one: 68 Across, “First name alphabetically in the Baseball Hall of Fame,” is AARON, which is placed in the centermost spot in the grid. That pairs with 115 Across, “Go-between,” which is THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE.

Two other horizontal reads: 1 Across, “When repeated, a resort near the Black Forest,” is BADEN, with DEN circled. That top-row answer is referenced by 57 Across, “Opening for an aspiring leader” — ROOM AT THE TOP. And at the very bottom, 123 Across (“Falls (over)”) is KEELS, with EEL circled; that connects with BOTTOM FISH (97 Across, “Carp or flounder, typically”).

Other letter sets were more visual. 8 Down is the upper-left corner of a 2-by-3 rectangle of circled letters that spells MENTAL, making it a MENTAL BLOCK (67 Down, “Cause of thoughtlessness?”). Over near 21 and 25 Across is a 2-by-2 square of circled letters that spells MILE, as in SQUARE MILE (34 Across, “Unit in measuring population density”). Another set of circled letters (STONE) in the bottom right corner forms a backward L — a literal CORNERSTONE (15 Down, “Place for a date, frequently). And if you’re looking for SLANTED LINES (75 Across, “Diagonals”), try reading the five circled letters that shoot diagonally from 65 Across — SENIL. Then sit there puzzled for a few minutes, like I did, and realize you need to read it backwards: LINES.

Not The Same Old Song Dept.: The answer to 80 Down is pretty familiar — ONE I, as in “The One I Love” by R.E.M. Except the clue here was “‘The ____ Gave My Heart To’ (1997 Aaliyah hit).” Along those same lines, I was surprised that the clue for MEME (118 Across) was a sorta stodgy foreign reference (“Same: Fr.”) instead of an Internet reference.

Questions or comments? Tweet me @crosswordkathy.

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