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A SIGN OF THE TIMES

New York Times, Monday, October 20, 2014

Author: Patrick Blindauer
Editor: Will Shortz
Patrick Blindauer
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647/21/20057/2/201720
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1.59252

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 78, Blocks: 40 Missing: {FJQVZ} Spans: 1 This is puzzle # 55 for Mr. Blindauer. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Notepad: A Crossword Contest
All the puzzles this week, from Monday to Saturday, have been created by one person, Patrick Blindauer. Keep your solutions handy, because the Saturday puzzle conceals a meta-challenge involving the solution grids of all six. When you have the answer to the meta-challenge, send it to crossword@nytimes.com. Twenty correct solvers, chosen at random, whose entries are received by 6:00 p.m. E.T. Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014, will win one-year online subscriptions to the New York Times crossword. Only one entry per person, please. The answer and winners' names will appear on Friday, Oct. 31, at www.nytimes.com/wordplay.
Patrick Blindauer notes: When Will asked me if I'd be interested in writing a 6-part meta for the Times, of course I jumped at the chance. I'd be a ... more
Patrick Blindauer notes: When Will asked me if I'd be interested in writing a 6-part meta for the Times, of course I jumped at the chance. I'd be a fool not to … on the other hand, it had been done once before by my xword idol, Patrick Berry. There's no way I could make something as intricate or clever, but hopefully it had been long enough that people might've forgotten about his magnum opus a little. Rather than cower in the shadow of a giant, I resolved to do my own thing with it and give it my best shot. I had some ideas brewing, so I quickly set off to work on the set of crossword puzzles you're seeing this week.

This is a six-part series of interconnected puzzles, each of which contains a piece of a larger mystery which leads to a final answer. I won't say anything about the meta-challenge until the contest is over, but today's surface theme is a simple, Monday-level category theme featuring increasing units of time. Luckily for everyone involved, Will and Joel eased up the clues on this one considerably. Some of the clues that got changed (read: clues I'll use another time) include [Scientist Bill whose mother was a codebreaker], ["___ a Bully, Charlie Brown" (TV movie)], and [Josh who voiced Olaf in "Frozen"].

I like to think that part of this is due to space limitations, since the square inch-age in the paper is extremely limited (especially when it includes a big blurb about the contest every day). I've gotten used to writing longer clues for xword venues like my website and the American Values Xword Club, I guess, so a bunch of clues had their gists maintained and got truncated. Other gems like [Answer to "Paris est-il la capitale de la France?"] and [Apt anagram of CO-STAR - S] weren't my doing at all. HUARTE is an obvious outlier, but I thought all the crossings were fair; this puzzle does skew older, what with HUARTE, CLU, and HARLOW. Anyway, I hope it was a fun and breezy way for solvers to start the week, whether they're participating in the contest or not.

Will Shortz notes: Every autumn since 2008 I've run either a themed puzzle week or a Sunday puzzle contest in the Times. In 2008 it was a week of ... more
Will Shortz notes: Every autumn since 2008 I've run either a themed puzzle week or a Sunday puzzle contest in the Times. In 2008 it was a week of daily crosswords constructed by teens. The following years were, successively, crosswords by Times contributors for 50+ years, members of the Brown University crossword club, all-Patrick Berry, and Sunday crossword contests by Caleb Rasmussen and Mike Selinker.

This year I've returned to the 2011 format with a whole week of daily puzzles constructed by one of the greats of crosswording, Patrick Blindauer. The first five puzzles, Monday to Friday, look like normal crosswords. As the instructions explain, though, they contain the start of a hidden message. The Saturday puzzle completes the message and has cryptic instructions for finding it.

Can the hidden message be identified before the Saturday puzzle is published? I'd be astonished. But then I've been astonished by Times solvers many times before, so we'll see.

BTW, the contest prizes this year have been upgraded to 20 one-year subscriptions to the online Times crossword. These prizes are nice, but (as you'll notice) still modest. Federal and state laws don't allow large prizes for contests that involve any significant element of luck, which this one does. You have to be lucky to be randomly selected from those who submit correct answers.

Still, it's really the fun of the event that's important. Also, if you win, you get your name in Wordplay next Friday.

Happy solving ... and good luck!

Jeff Chen notes: Contest week! Jim and I decided to keep everything quiet until the contest is over, including the grid solutions. I doubt we'd give ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Contest week! Jim and I decided to keep everything quiet until the contest is over, including the grid solutions. I doubt we'd give anything away by publishing all the clues and answers, but this method better preserves the mystery.

Speaking of mysteries, this week is an appropriate time for me to delve into some of my favorite cryptological mysteries throughout history. None of these write-ups have anything to do with the contest, I promise (I'll put up a post summarizing how I solved it afterward, assuming I solve it). I simply like sharing my obsession with unsolved coded puzzles throughout history. And my posts will need to get shorter anyway, as a certain eight-day-old little dictator is giving me the stink-eye.

THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT

I love that one of my interests connects me to like-minded folks all the way back in the 15th century. Filled with curious drawings as well as cryptext, the Voynich manuscript was thought to be created during the Renaissance. It's been over a century since Polish book dealer Wilfrid Voynich unearthed it, but it still remains largely uncracked, despite the best minds all over the world to uncover its secrets.

And what secrets! Imagine what might have been discovered during that amazing part of history. From what we know, it likely covers topics from herbal medicine to astronomy to biology to even pharmaceuticals. Perhaps everything buried within the text of the Voynich manuscript has already been rediscovered by modern science, or has already been rendered obsolete. But what if the coded information contains, say, an easy way to prevent cataracts, bringing gigantic quality of life improvements applicable to those all over the third world suffering from the affliction?

What makes the Voynich manuscript especially compelling to me is that the C14 dating puts it definitively in the early 15th century — whether or not it contains useful information, it is definitely not a 20th century hoax. Sure, it could be full of failed attempts at alchemy or backwards medical treatments like the use of lead, but the possibilities are endless. Who'll be the first to learn the true messages straight from the best scientists and thinkers of the Renaissance? It makes me want to visit Yale for even a fleeting chance to inspect the original manuscript.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1020 ( 23,722 )
Across Down
1. Travel aimlessly, with "about" : GAD
4. Sis's sibling : BRO
7. Studio with a lion mascot : MGM
10. Standard sugar measure: Abbr. : TSP
13. King Kong, e.g. : APE
14. Permit : LET
15. Answer to "Paris est-il la capitale de la France?" : OUI
16. Indian immigrant on "The Simpsons" : APU
17. Instant : SPLITSECOND
20. Gen ___ (member of the MTV Generation) : XER
21. Nutritional supplement brand : ENSURE
22. Lo-cal beers : LITES
24. Attire for Caesar : TOGA
26. Product that competes with Uncle Ben's : MINUTERICE
29. John who won the 1964 Heisman Trophy : HUARTE
31. High-ranking angels : SERAPHS
32. Apt anagram of CO-STAR - S : ACTOR
33. Bridge : SPAN
35. Midnight : THEWITCHINGHOUR
42. Bald person's lack : HAIR
43. Expire, as a subscription : LAPSE
44. ___ illusion : OPTICAL
49. What a medical examiner examines : CORPSE
50. 1965 Beatles hit that begins "Got a good reason for taking the easy way out" : DAYTRIPPER
53. Almighty : LORD
54. Judy's brother on "The Jetsons" : ELROY
55. It's north of California : OREGON
57. ___ of Tranquillity : SEA
58. Time leading up to Easter : PASSIONWEEK
63. 555-55-5555, e.g.: Abbr. : SSN
64. Apex : TOP
65. Gulager of "McQ" : CLU
66. TV scientist Bill : NYE
67. Courtroom figure: Abbr. : ATT
68. Cloud's locale : SKY
69. "For ___ a jolly good fellow" : HES
70. Number of years in a decade : TEN
1. Exxon product : GAS
2. Smartphone purchase : APP
3. Political conventiongoer : DELEGATE
4. Nonkosher sandwiches : BLTS
5. Sheet that might list one's college degree and work experience : RESUME
6. Cheri of old "S.N.L." : OTERI
7. Oink : pig :: ___ : cow : MOO
8. Revolver, e.g. : GUN
9. Bette of "Beaches" : MIDLER
10. Piece of advice from H&R Block : TAXTIP
11. Oration : SPEECH
12. Pocketbooks : PURSES
18. How pawns are arranged, at first : INAROW
19. 100 yrs. : CEN
23. Lyricist Gershwin : IRA
24. "___ is so you!" : THAT
25. Response to an insult : OUCH
27. Southwest alternative, for short : USAIR
28. Home to Dollywood and Graceland: Abbr. : TENN
30. Prefix with glyceride : TRI
33. Resell, as concert tickets : SCALP
34. Letter after upsilon : PHI
36. From Bangkok : THAI
37. Shine, in some brand names : GLO
38. Jean of "Bombshell" : HARLOW
39. Foe : OPPONENT
40. Lenin's land, for short : USSR
41. Critic Rex : REED
44. Texas city named after a Ukrainian city : ODESSA
45. Least tanned : PALEST
46. Despot : TYRANT
47. "Who am ___ argue?" : ITO
48. Underground tombs : CRYPTS
49. Louisiana style of cooking : CREOLE
51. Opposite of neg. : POS
52. Psychologist Fromm : ERICH
56. Wildebeests : GNUS
59. "All systems go" : AOK
60. 007, for one : SPY
61. Cyclops or cyclone feature : EYE
62. Range of knowledge : KEN

Answer summary: 2 unique to this puzzle, 1 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

Found bugs or have suggestions?