New York Times crossword May 27 / Constructed by Byron Walden
Apologies for the late post. We had family visiting from out-of-town, and there’s nothing like walking around Independence Hall in 80-something-degree weather and 96 percent humidity.
Today’s puzzle is literally crammed with clever entries. The “State Quarters” in the title refers to the U.S Mint’s series of 25-cent pieces representing each of the 50 states. Clues describing a few of these coins are italicized — e.g. 10 Across, “Patriot Caesar Rodney on horseback” — but the trick is not only figuring out which state that is (Delaware) but how to squeeze it into the four allotted squares. Yes, eight letters in four squares. So you “quarter” it, entering two letters per space: (DE)(LA)(WA)(RE). The squeezed letters, of course, also work going down: (DE)LIS (“Handlers of brats,” 10 Down); (LA)IN (“Stretched out,” 11 Down); (WA)NG (“Designer Vera,” 12 Down); and (RE)EF (“Island protector,” 13 Down).
Other “state quarters”: (MI)(CH)(IG)(AN), for “The Great Lakes,” 19 Across; (OK)(LA)(HO)(MA), for “Scissor-tailed flycatcher with wildflowers,” 27 Across; (CO)(LO)(RA)(DO), for “Rocky Mountains,” 39 Down; (AR)(KA)(NS)(AS), for “Rice stalks, a diamond and a mallard,” 66 Across; (NE)(BR)(AS)(KA), for “Covered wagon next to Chimney Rock,” 59 Across; (MI)(SS)(OU)(RI), for “Lewis and Clark and the Gateway Arch,” 75 Down; (MA)(RY)(LA)(ND), for “Statehouse dome,” 100 Across; (IL)(LI)(NO)(IS), for “Abraham Lincoln,” 109 Across; and (KE)(NT)(UC)(KY), for “Racehorse in front of the Federal Hill mansion,” 112 Across.
And then there were the super-tricky states: Home-sweet-home (PEN)(NSY)(LVA)(NIA), for “‘Commonwealth’ statue and a keystone,” 46 Down; and (NEW)(HAM)(PSH)(IRE), for “Old Man of the Mountain rock formation,” 69 Down. Good thing New Hampshire memorialized the formation on a quarter, because it’s not there anymore.
Cross Words Dept: The ingenuity of this puzzle can’t be fully appreciated without seeing how constructor Byron Walden used the doubled- and tripled-letters in non-theme answers. “Military issue jacket with a furry hood” is a SNORKEL PAR(KA) (16 Down), using the (KA) in (AR)(KA)(NS)(AS). ”Severely parched” is (AS) DRY AS A BONE (61 Down), with the (AS) coming from (NE)(BR)(AS)(KA). “Civil defense devices” are AIR RAID S(IRE)NS (82 Across), using the (IRE) in (NEW)(HAM)(PSH)(IRE). Those are just a few of the many.
Something New Every Day Dept.: The puzzle had a lot of interesting long answers that were not part of the theme (and not part of my general knowledge base!). “Snake predators named for their calls” are LAUGHING FALCONS (24 Across). “French Baroque artist who painted ‘The Fortune Teller’” is GEORGES DE LA TOUR (101 Across).
For Fun Dept.: “Area that’s frequently swept?” is a RADAR RANGE (57 Down). “Salts” are ABLE SEAMEN (26 Down).