Separate Checks

New York Times crossword July 31 / Constructed by Pamela Klawitter

Wow, has Will Shortz caught the Google Plus bug? Because this is the fourth puzzle this month with circles in it.

Today’s self-referential grid uses pairs of circled letters to create several rebusus (rebi?). When linked, the pairs form a single word. But they are separated (hence the title) by a black square or two, visually illustrating a common phrase associated with the word.

For example, HIGH (“Daily weather datum,” 76 Down) and WAY (“Mode,” 109 Down) are divided by a couple of black squares, making them the depiction of a DIVIDED HIGHWAY (“See circled letters in 76-/109-Down,” 27 Across). Likewise, WIN (“When repeated, advantageous to both sides,” 1 Across) and DOW (from DOWNS, “71 Answers in this puzzle,” 4 Across) have a pair of black squares between them, making a CRACKED WINDOW (14 Down).

I tried to color-code the related words and answers.

Other separations: PRO (“Master,” 12 Down) and MISE (from MISER, “Tightfisted sort,” 35 Down) make a BROKEN PROMISE (56 Down); BAN (“The U.N.’s ___ Ki-Moon,” 39 Down) and ANA (from ANATOLE, “France from France,” 60 Down) make a BANANA SPLIT (88 Across); SKU (“Merchandise ID,” 17 Down) and LL (from LLDS, “Honorary law degs.,” 43 Down) make a FRACTURED SKULL (103 Across); FALL (from OF ALL, “Best ___,” 119 Across) and EN (from ENDER, “Rear’s rear?” 120 Across) make for FALLEN APART (44 Across); and TO (from MOTTO, “‘Think’ or ‘Think different,'” 116 Across) and RN (from RNAS, “They’re stranded, briefly,” 117 Across) make for TORN ASUNDER (64 Across).

Rotten Tomatoes Dept.: Everyone knows about the bomb GIGLI (“2003 Affleck/Lopez flick,” 79 Down), but “All About Steve” came and went so quickly that I needed crossing answers to help me get STEVE (“Title character in a 2009 Sandra Bullock crossword film,” 32 Across).

Seriously? Dept.: I thought that BOATEL (“Offshore accommodations,” 93 Across) was an illegitimate, made-up pun on “hotel” until I found it on (It’s still a made-up pun, IMHO.)

Singer/Sewing Dept.: For the longest time, ETUI was always clued as a place for sewers to keep needles. Apparently its use has been updated to include “French CD holder” (94 Across). (Although who keeps CDs anymore? The same people who sew, I guess.)

Exploring Surnames Dept.: I’m familiar with “DORA the Explorer” as the title of a kids TV show — and I think I’d even recognize her if I saw her on a lunchbox — but I had no idea she had a last name. (“___ Marquez, Nickelodeon cartoon girl,” 10 Down.)

Terms of Endearment Dept.: The grid features consecutive “Sweetheart” clues: LASS (48 Across) and DOLL (50 Across).

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2 thoughts on “Separate Checks”

  1. I got the correct answer from the down clues, but can you please explain 4 across, “71 answers in this puzzle”? How is that “downs”? There are 111 down answers!! What the heck am I missing?

  2. @John Thanks for reading! While the Down clues go up to 111, there are only 71 of them because they skip numbers. (For example, there is a 35 Down but not a 36 Down.) It will make sense if you actually count the Down clues.

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