THURSDAY PUZZLE — Andrew Zhou returns, and he is encouraging us to tinker, which is the best way to solve, if you ask me.
Let’s see if we can put this puzzle together. First, however, we might need to take it apart.
4A: “Apt X for a Y” clues mean that we are looking for some type of X that is related to Y. BANGS would be an apt hairstyle for a gunslinger because guns go “bang!” Are BANGS a hairstyle and not just a feature of a hairstyle?
34A: A sign that I might need another vacation soon: I misread the clue as “Drug dealer’s claim,” and couldn’t understand why a dealer might claim that a particular product had no side effects. You would think that the side effects would be a feature, not a flaw.
53A: USURY is not a crime that ranks up there with other statistically high crimes, like robbery. It is a crime that involves high rates of interest.
54A: Please do not adjust your puzzle, and please do not write in saying that you spotted a typo in the New York Times Crossword. The clue is correct as is. Our official cookie, the OREO, used to be advertised as “WONDERfILLED,” with the lowercase “f.” We don’t know why.
60A: This could also have been OUTER Mongolia, but the crossings proved otherwise. The answer is INNER Mongolia.
64A: I am not a sailor, but I remember the word TYE as a chain used to fasten a boat by thinking of the homophone “tie,” as in to tie up the boat.
3D: Interesting historical side note: The word THUSLY makes its return to The New York Times Crossword after 53 years.
4D: I love BAO! My favorite are pork buns (cha siu BAO), followed closely by soup dumplings (xiao long BAO). If you want to tear up a bit, watch this short film written and directed by Domee Shi and produced by Pixar Animation Studios:
11D: With that question mark (“Sub tenant?”) and the space between the words, we can deduce that we are not talking about someone who sublets an apartment. The sub in this clue is a submarine, and the tenant is an OCEANAUT.
25D: A “slanted column” sounds as if we could be talking about the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but we’re not. The answer is OP-ED, which stands for “opposite the editorial.” It is designed to have an opinion, as opposed to news articles.
34D: The Latin phrase NOTA BENE, or N.B., means “note well,” and is used to draw attention to what follows.
It’s Thursday, so don’t expect much help in figuring out how Mr. Zhou’s revealer applies to the theme. In early-week puzzles, the squares we need to find might be shaded or circled, but we don’t get that kind of direction now, with the exception of some mysterious letter counts in parentheses.
The revealer at 55A is REVERSE ENGINEERING, which is the act of taking something apart to see how it’s made in order to reproduce it. That phrase is a nice 15-letter grid spanner, and it’s also a hint at the surnames of four famous engineers you can find in the theme entries, providing you read them in the REVERSE direction.
For example, at 17A, the answer to “Easy quiz to grade” is TRUE OR FALSE TEST, and if you look carefully, Nikola TESLA appears. Similarly, the “TV star with a museum in Jamestown, N.Y.,” is LUCILLE BALL, who hides Alexander Graham BELL in reverse in her name.
It would have been nice to have at least one female engineer in the set, but Mr. Zhou explains the process of how he developed his theme set in his notes below. Sometimes people’s names just don’t lend themselves to a theme, I guess.
Many thanks as always to the editing team. The original submission for this puzzle had BOO[KINSER]T for Judith Resnik in the place of LUCI[LLEB]ALL. Of course, in the back of my mind, I knew Ms. Resnik was less well known than the others here, and that I might be asked to replace her. And such was the case.
Edith Clarke, Emily Roebling, Lillian Gilbreth, even Hedy Lamarr don’t have names that can be found reversed in phrases (none that I could find, anyway), but, perhaps more important, even if they did, they may not be well-known enough to be theme-worthy, especially in the “second degree” (e.g., not directly stated as a full-on theme entry). Such are the conditions of history and fame we may ponder.
In the end, Bell it must be, but at least I put him in Ms. Ball’s name.
The Tipping Point
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