New York Times crossword June 16 / Constructed by Mel Rosen
Apologies for the late post. Had a rare weekend shift at work and didn’t even get to look at this marvelously constructed riddle-within-a-puzzle-within-a-puzzle until about 6 p.m.
The extensive editor’s note gives the instructions for the title’s “Question Box,” which uses circled letters to answer the four-part trivia question spread throughout the grid. First you have to solve the 10 starred clues; then you have to place those 10 answers in the central box so they interlock in crossword fashion.
In a nutshell: IF A GIRAFFE HAS FOURTEEN (23 Across) MORE THAN A WALRUS AND (34 Across) A SQUIRREL HAS HALF AS (82 Across) MANY AS A PIG, WHAT ARE THEY (98 Across)? The answer is TEETH. (At this point I’d like to make some kind of veterinarian/dentistry joke, but I’m kind of pressed for time. Use your imagination.)
The starred clues were pretty run-of-the-mill words, though I’ll quibble with “*Some boat covers” being T-TOPS (1 Across). I know convertible cars can have T-tops – but boats? Guess I don’t get out on the water much.
Filling in the “Question Box” came remarkably easy to me, though I wouldn’t necessarily expect the same result next time I have to try it. Basically, I listed all the words on a separate sheet of paper, and then I looked for two words starting with the same letter that could anchor the box from across the top and down the left side.
Twitter friend @afaul1971 summed it up pretty well when he tweeted that the grid was “a remarkable constructing feat” but with a lot of bad fill.
Twofers Dept.: The doubled clue “Wallops” yields both KO’S (28 Across) and THUMPS (29 Across). And a “Shul reading” comes from the TORAH (59 Across), which is kept in an ARK (“Shul fixture,” 99 Down).
Philly Shout-Out Dept.: Few people realize that SUNOCO (“Company whose logo has a diagonal red arrow,” 93 Across) is headquartered here in Philadelphia. I’m also going include in this category the answer TRAPS (“*Sandy spots, maybe,” 54 Down), which refers to golf. As I write this, Justin Rose has just won the U.S. Open at the Merion Golf Club, which is just across the Philly city line.
Whoops! Dept.: You’ll see a few places where my initial answers, upon further consideration, required some revisions. “Partition into multiple bits” was not BREAK UP, as I originally wrote, but CARVE UP (81 Down). “Three-part” is not TRINITY but TRINARY (33 Across), which provides the R for the unusual entry SIEUR (“French lord,” 16 Down). I never thought about the root of the title “monsieur” until I saw that – it literally combines the words “mon sieur,” or “my lord.” I had lightly entered POSH for “Exorbitant” (6 Across) but later realized it was simply HIGH. Maybe if I watched more tennis I would have gotten the H from HAAS (“Tennis great Tommy,” 6 Down). And a “Cliche, often” is an ADAGE (88 Down), whereas I had first written TRITE. (Not that my answer was wrong, generally speaking. It’s just wrong in this grid.)