Grid Iron

New York Times crossword April 15 / Constructed by Kevin G. Der

Holy crap, what an awesome puzzle! But I hope you remember high school chemistry — without it, you’ll be sunk.

At first glance, the crossword appeared to be football-themed — a rectangular shape titled “Grid Iron.” My first thought was that Will Shortz is totally off his rocker. I mean, he ran a Titanic-themed puzzle (“100 Years Ago”) on March 11, a whole month before the anniversary. Does he not have a calendar?

But I should not have doubted him. This terrific crossword from constructor Kevin G. Der was a three-fer that included a massive grid (about 300 clues!), a connect-the-dots and a hidden phrase. Did I mention you also had to know the chemical symbol for iron (FE)?

This crossword had all kinds of bonus puzzles inside.

As everyone knows by now, this weekend was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the TITANIC (56 Down, to which all theme clues refer). (I even contributed to the hype with this story from Philadelphia.) You might also know that the 1997 movie of the same name was re-released in 3-D. It tells the tragic story of the LUXURY LINER (152 Across) that departed from SOUTHAMPTON (29 Across) on April 10, 1912, en route to New York. But the ship hit an ICEBERG (60 Down) and sank off the coast of Newfoundland, killing more than 1,500 people.

The film stars Kate WINSLET (125 Across) and Leonardo DICAPRIO (128 Across), birthed the ever-present Celine Dion theme song MY HEART WILL GO ON (35- and 37 Across), and went on to win ELEVEN ACADEMY AWARDS (141 Across). Its most famous line is I’M THE KING OF THE WORLD (33 Across).

Today’s puzzle also came with a unique shape, eight shaded squares and a blurb about 12 other “special” squares. Those special squares were where you had to squeeze the letters FE — the “iron” in the title — into a single box. When you connected all 12 FEs, you got the shape of the Titanic; the shaded squares represent the smokestacks.

On top of all that, the blurb instructed you to find the mirror-image squares of all the FEs in order to spell out another name for the Titanic. Those letters yield SHIP OF DREAMS.

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “‘Love Train’ singers, with ‘the'” are O’JAYS (10 Across). The group is part of the heart and soul of TSOP – The Sound of Philadelphia – created at Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International Records, just a few blocks from my house. I’ll also give a Philly-area shout-out to the AMISH (“Some buggy drivers,” 139 Across).

Junior High Flashback Dept.: Last month, I went to my first bat mitzvah in about 25 years. I heard ADONAI (“Literally, ‘my Lord’,” 92 Across) quite frequently, but not so much “Shalom ____” ALEICHEM (“Hebrew greeting,” 92 Down). (Also, back in the mid-’80s, I was always a guest of the honoree, wondering who all those nameless adults were; this time, I was one of those nameless adults.)

Clues of Note Dept.: “Winner of a 1970s-’80s war” is VHS (87 Across), which beat out Betamax in the market for that now-defunct device known as a VCR (video cassette recorder, for the youngsters out there). “Saverin who co-founded Facebook” is EDUARDO (53 Down), played by Andrew Garfield in the terrific movie “The Social Network.” I don’t know anyone who uses the verb form of “liaison,” so I’m going to deduct points for LIAISES (“Acts the middleman,” 103 Down). And “Golfs, e.g., briefly” are VWS (87 Down), for Volkswagens. My old Golf served me well for eight years and 146,000 miles.

Missing Link Dept.: As you can see from the one empty square, I could not for the life of me figure out the last letter in 56 Across (“Silence indicator”), which crosses with 44 Down (“Small-runway aircraft, briefly”). Help?

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