New York Times crossword Oct. 21 / Constructed by Caleb Rasmussen
So now that it’s Tuesday, I can finally blog about Sunday’s clever crossword contest! (For more information on the delayed post, see “Behind The Scenes Dept.” below.)
This fun brain-teaser from constructor Caleb Rasmussen was a three-fer, requiring you to solve the puzzle, wend your way through a “maze” and identify 10 words related to the “vault” at the center of the grid. By emailing the correct answers to the NYT, you were entered into the running for a crossword calendar and — even better! — getting your name published in the Nov. 4 Times Magazine.
I have to say the first few answers came slowly, and I was a bit worried I wouldn’t be able to figure it out. But then I found the KEY. After seeing I had _ BOARDS for 51 Across, I knew the answer to “Blackberry feature” had to be (KEY)BOARDS. And it crossed nicely with JOC(KEY) (“Crop holder,” 35 Down).
Figuring there must be other rebus answers in the puzzle, I soon found the “seven hazards” blocking my path to the safe: MINE, TRAP, ASP, BEAR, LION, LAVA and PIT. Each is squeezed into a single square, yielding answers that look like (LAVA) LAMPS (“Retro light sources,” 119 Across) and BRATIS(LAVA) (“Central European capital,” 83 Down). Or DANDE(LION) (“Certain salad green,” 97 Down) crossed with ANT (LION) (“Predatory insect,” 121 Across). You can see others highlighted in orange in the grid at right.
The treasure found in the vault is GOLD — squeezed into square 53 — which yields (GOLD)BERG (“Secretary of labor who became a Supreme Court justice,” 53 Across) and (GOLD) STAR (“Reward for one who 52-Down?” 53 Down). The answer to 52 Down is ACES A TEST (“Scores 100”).
The puzzle instructions tell you to find your way to an “important item” — the KEY — using a safe path starting in the upper left corner. The grid is constructed in such a way that your path must travel through each quadrant of the grid in order to avoid each hazards. (The quickest route to the KEY is blocked by the MINE, forcing you toward the upper right corner, then down and around in a clockwise fashion until you reach the KEY.)
Yet even after getting all that, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where to use this KEY. After reading the comments on Rex Parker’s blog, it seemed like I wasn’t the only one stumped by this element of the puzzle. Much debate centered on the word SLOT, from SLOTTED (“Scheduled,” 69 Across), which seemed as good an answer as any. I thought today’s special contest post on the NYT Wordplay blog would include the answers, but no luck yet.
UPDATE: A very kind commenter on this post told me where to find the LOCK – it’s the black square separating 71- and 72 Across, forming the word ANTIC(LOCK)WISE. That’s the answer to the second part of 71 Across, “… or going around the wrong way, in Britain?” Holy crap. I think I prefer a dial on my safe.
So, did anyone find this puzzle TOO EASY (“Not a challenge at all,” 7 Down)?
Behind The Scenes Dept.: You can imagine my surprise when Will Shortz tweeted at me a couple of weeks ago, asking me to email him. (In fact, after he reached out to me on Twitter, I checked with Wordplay blogger Deb Amlen to make sure it was the real Will Shortz. Get a verified account, Will!) Anyway, Will said he was asking all the Sunday puzzle bloggers to refrain from revealing the answers ahead of the entry deadline at 6 p.m. EDT Tuesday. I figured if Rex Parker was keeping quiet, so could I. Feel free to disagree by leaving a (civil!) comment.
Where In The World? Dept.: “Port from which Amelia Earhart left on her last flight” is LAE (60 Down), which sounds more like an airport code than a place. It’s actually a town in New Guinea.
Horsing Around Dept.: The repeated clue “Crop holder” at 37- and 35 Down yields both SILO and the aforementioned JOC(KEY).
Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “Franklin output” is Poor Richard’s ALMANAC (64 Across), although I believe it was spelled ALMANACK when Ben published it.
Tromp L’Oeil Dept.: “Not entirely real, as a photo” is DOCTORED (24 Across). We’re actually headed to New York this weekend in part to see the Met exhibit “Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop.”