New York Times crossword Nov. 25 / Constructed by Jeff Chen
Sorry for the late post. Had to work my day job today and just got done solving this gem of a puzzle by constructor Jeff Chen.
It was hard to miss the huge “X” in the middle of the grid. And while the title says the puzzle has “a little extra,” it actually has a pretty big “X”-tra. And that “X” is what’s missing from the 14 symmetrically placed theme answers. (There’s an editor’s note explaining that this missing part “can be found elsewhere in the grid.”)
Going across, you’ll find PROFESSOR (X) (“Four-time role for Patrick Stewart,” 58 Across), which serendipitously refers to his role in (X)-MEN, another theme answer at 112 Down (“Comic book mutants.”) Then there’s (X) CHROMOSOME (“Almost every man in the world has one,” 60 Across), GENERATION (X) (“Followers of a boom?” 65 Across) and (X)-ACTO KNIFE (“More precise alternative to scissors,” 72 Across). Also: APOLLO (X) (“Lunar mission commanded by Thomas P. Stafford,” 88 Across) and the (X) FACTOR, which refers not to the horridly derivative TV singing contest but to the horridly pretentious “Je ne sais quoi” (46 Across). I’m not sure which is worse.
Going down, you’ll find an (X)-BOX (“Wii alternative,” 114 Down) and MALCOLM (X) (“1992 Denzel Washington title role,” 7 Down). There’s also GAS-(X) (“Beano competitor,” 15 Down), PLANET (X) (“Quest of the astronomer Percival Lowell,” 13 Down) and LEO (X) (“Excommunicator of Martin Luther,” 4 Down). And finally we have (X) RATING (“G’s opposite,” 94 Down) and (X)-RAY SPEX (“Novelty glasses,” 91 Down).
For Fun Dept.: There were so many great entries in this puzzle I’m not sure I can list them all. Let’s start with YOSEMITE SAM (“Mustachioed cartoon character,” 63 Down), ONION ROLLS (“Bialys,” 23 Across) and POPEMOBILE (“Widely used term declared ‘undignified’ by John Paul II,” 113 Across). Then we have END OF AN ERA (“Historical transition point, 66 Down), ENEMY LINES (“A spy will often cross them,” 111 Across), BE NICE TO (“Pamper, say,” 85 Down), CALLIGRAPHY (“Script writer’s study?” 10 Down), HITS BOTTOM (“Reaches a nadir,” 16 Down) and NOT ABOVE (“Willing to consider,” 86 Down). HITS BOTTOM was at the top, by the way, while NOT ABOVE was at the bottom.
Where In The World? Dept.: “City near Virginia City” is RENO (69 Down), as in Nevada. Go figure.
Extra, Extra! Dept.: As if there weren’t enough X’s already, 52 Down asks for “One of the X’s in X-X-X.” The answer is TIC (52 Down), as in tic-tac-toe. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “1970s-’80s F.B.I. sting” is ABSCAM (108 Across), which used a fake sheikh to bring down members of Philadelphia City Council, among many other elected officials. Also in the Philly category is ITALIAN ICE (“Summer cooler,” 77 Down). It’s usually called water ice here — and pronounced “wooder ice” — but you hear Italian ice as well, especially at Rita’s.