Magic Square

New York Times crossword Jan. 13 / Constructed by Elizabeth C. Gorski

I greeted today’s puzzle with a mix of curiosity, dread and resignation. The grid, with the isolated box in the middle, reminded me of the crossword contest from a few weeks ago that stumped me. Normally that would get my competitive juices flowing, but I’m sick — isn’t everyone? — so I really didn’t want to have to use a whole lot of brain cells.

This magic square required some basic math.
This magic square required some basic math.

Turns out this creative puzzle from Elizabeth C. Gorski was just challenging enough to be fun and entertaining without being completely mentally draining. The key for me was using crossing words to solve 36 Across, “Like magic squares”: MATHEMATICAL. That helped me figure out (also using crossing words) the three clues that filled in the grid’s central “Magic Square.” For 23 Across, “Middle row,” you get THREE FIVE SEVEN; “Top row” is EIGHT ONE SIX (17 Down); and “Bottom row” is FOUR NINE TWO (64 Down).

Once you fill those numbers into the square, you might notice that they ADD UP TO FIFTEEN (“… what each line in the center square should do,” 114 Across). And that’s the case in every direction — HORIZONTALLY (93 Across), DIAGONALLY (48 Down) and VERTICALLY (34 Down) — thus making it “magic.” OK, not really. But it’s kind of neat.

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “Newspapers” are GAZETTES (85 Down). They’re actually much more than that — I’d argue newspapers are the backbone of many communities — and I mention this because last week the owners of Philly’s two papers threatened to liquidate the company if the largest union doesn’t offer concessions. Tough times for journalism.

Learn Something New Every Day Dept.: Although I’ve seen this fashion statement many times, I didn’t know that “Knee-length hip-hop shirts” are called TALL TEES (73 Across). Also never heard of OOLITE (“Limestone variety,” 22 Across) or a Y LEVEL (“Rotating surveying tool,” 86 Across).

Lights Out Dept.: I need a nap. Stay healthy.

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