Monday, September 20

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‘___’: Crossword Commentary

Hints and commentary on tricky clues and the puzzle's theme and comments from the constructor

Play this week’s crossword here.

Difficulty Level: 3/5 

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No, that title’s not a typo. We left the title blank on purpose: a blank space is very important in today’s puzzle. Alex Kim’s debut in the Puzzles section will have you stretching your vocabulary and memory of Taylor Swift songs. Read on for hints on notable clues, thoughts on the theme, and comments from the constructor.

Notable Clues

6A: As a Yankee fan, I’m going to bristle a little bit at any answer about the Red Sox. But I’ve always had an affinity for David Ortiz — also known as Big PAPI.

14A: I always like answers that fit a whole phrase within them, and this is an excellent example. The phrase DOES A JOB ON means to really screw something up — which Kim definitely didn’t do with this answer.

29A: A fun clue and answer pairing here that’s a prime example of a misdirect. The clue [Bug] will have most solvers thinking of insects, but the concise clue hides that this is a verb and not a noun, so the answer is ANNOY.

10D: KEANU Reeves is one of my favorite actors, not only for my affection for the “Matrix” franchise but also for his genuine thoughtfulness and wisdom. Consider this interview he had with Steven Colbert. Colbert asks him, “What do you think happens after we die, Keanu Reeves?” Colbert wears a grin, clearly making it a joke. The crowd laughs. Reeves takes it seriously, exhaling pensively. He then looks up at Colbert and says, “I know that the ones who love us will miss us.” It’s an excellent answer, the perfect answer: Colbert doesn’t ask about the afterlife, so Reeves doesn’t answer about the afterlife, keeping his answer grounded in the real world. We can’t know the afterlife, but we can know one thing: “that the ones who love us will miss us.”

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What were we talking about? Sorry. I love Keanu Reeves.

11D: I laughed out loud when I read this clue for the first time. Folks, don’t start a campfire in a LOG CABIN. That’s a really bad idea.

15D: Due to the vicissitudes of TigerHub, I am on the waitlist for JEFF Nunokawa’s ENG203: The Essay in the fall. I would have loved to take it — but I wish the best to the twelve people who jumped on TigerHub before me. I will now go quietly seethe in the corner.

36D: Fun fact: The third edition of the OED (the Oxford English Dictionary, which indeed contains more than two million quotations) has already been scheduled to be completed in 2037. I’m not sure how they have managed to plan that far ahead — but I’m excited for it to drop in my early middle age.

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Today’s Theme

What a theme today from Kim. The revealer is at 61-Across: the [2014 Taylor Swift hit] is BLANK SPACE. And all the theme answers that structure: i.e., both words in all the theme answers fit the structure “___ space.”

Make sense? Here’s an example: 49-Across, [Take evasive maneuvers], is DOUBLE BACK. But “double space” and “backspace” are both phrases. What about 24-Across: [What lies at the center of a bingo board] is a FREE SQUARE. “Free space” is an unoccupied area, and “Squarespace” is a website creator. All the theme answers work this way, but I’ll leave it to you to figure them out.

Constructor Notes

Like many others before me, I owe a significant debt of gratitude to Owen Travis and Gabe Robare, the leaders of the Puzzles section, for the production of this puzzle. As my first stab at constructing, I definitely got off to a rocky start, but they helped guide me in the right direction.

I wish I could say that this theme was deeply meaningful to me or spoke to some long-suppressed memories from my childhood, but to be perfectly honest, it just popped into my head while I was ruminating in the shower (as most of my best thoughts tend to). I learned quite a bit while filling and clueing this puzzle, and I enjoyed injecting little bits of my own personality into it. I hope you had some fun solving it, and I can't wait to start working on my next!

Still need help? See below for the answer key.

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