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A SIGN OF THE TIMES

New York Times, Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Author: Patrick Blindauer
Editor: Will Shortz
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Patrick Blindauer

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 77, Blocks: 37 Missing: {JQV} Spans: 2 Grid is asymmetric. This is puzzle # 57 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: This is definitely more 'grid play' than word play, but I hope people get a smile out of it, if nothing else. Not many theme ... more
Patrick Blindauer notes: This is definitely more "grid play" than word play, but I hope people get a smile out of it, if nothing else. Not many theme entries here, which allowed me to include some longer, more interesting answers than I could have if I'd crammed in a bunch of theme. I toyed with other face-related phrases, but in the end the symmetry of a SEE phrase and an EYE phrase seemed the most elegant. Happy to feature a Demetri Martin ONELINER at 38D, as well as give props to "Assassins," which I just played Byck in (65A). My originally submitted NOEL Coward quote was "The higher the building, the lower the morals."
Will Shortz notes: (see my Note from Monday)
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 ten-day-old little dictator is just sneering at my offer to pay her a thousand dollars if she just stops crying.

THE BEALE CIPHERS

I was around 10 years old when my dad let me pick out any book on a trip to a local bookstore. Being the oddity I was, I selected Paul Hoffman's "Archimedes' Revenge," continuing my road toward true nerdhood (Granted, it does have a cool cover. Then again, one of its subtitles is "The Joys and Perils of Mathematics.") A chapter on The Beale Ciphers caught my attention in particular, what with the story of shadowy people and three coded maps leading to a fortune in buried treasure.

To make it even more interesting, after much (purported) work, one of the ciphers was solved! It employed a relatively simple code, using the Declaration of Independence as a key. That one leap of logic (no idea on how anyone would make that leap though) allowed the second message to unfold. I imagined myself back in that age, participating in the mad scramble of what might or might not have been a set of hints to finding a real treasure.

Are the Beale Ciphers real, or the work or a genius who figured out a way to make a bundle by creating an aura of mystery and tantalizing riches just out of your fingertips? Stories even link Edgar Allan Poe, the master of literary terror (if you've never read "The Cask of Amontillado" it's a must), to the ciphers. The evidence seems not to be conclusive, so it remains an enigma to this day. I feel a little bad for all the people of Bedford County who have endured decades of treasure-hungry prospectors of digging up their land. But if I were in Virginia, I'd be tempted to buy a pickaxe.

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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 1022 ( 23,724 )
Across Down
1. Actor Gerard of "Buck Rogers" : GIL
4. Bit : TAD
7. Target of trimming : FAT
10. 12-Down from meditators : OMS
13. U.K. award : OBE
14. Catherine de' Medici is said to have eaten it at every meal : SPINACH
16. Losing line in tic-tac-toe : XOO
17. Words to a baby : PEEKABOOISEEYOU
20. One with a mister in Münster : FRAU
21. Ballot marker : XER
22. Another time, in "Li'l Abner" : AGIN
23. Fjord explorers? : FINNS
25. Robert of "The Sopranos" : ILER
27. Summon, with "for" : SEND
28. Emulated Pacino in a "Scent of a Woman" scene : TANGOED
30. Adages : SAYINGS
32. With 33-Across, meeting with someone in person : FACE
33. See 32-Across : TIME
34. Straighten out : UNCURL
37. Reading for a king's herald : SCROLL
41. Body in a bed : SEA
42. Strong punch : SANGRIA
46. Vote on Scottish independence : NAE
47. Amiss : AWRY
49. Shakespearean title character : TIMON
50. Copper : CENT
51. Urban blight : SLUM
53. Ballot topic for decriminalization : POT
54. Subj. with Riemann sums : CALC
55. Factors in wine competitions : AROMAS
57. Some carnival rides : PONIES
59. 007 film of 1981 : FORYOUREYESONLY
63. Vegan-friendly protein source : TOFU
64. "Impression, Sunrise" painter : MONET
65. Czolgosz who shot McKinley : LEON
66. Like some radios : AMFM
67. Form of 10-Down : OZONE
68. Uffizi display : ARTE
1. Die : GOPFFT
2. Largest airline of Spain : IBERIA
3. "I Hope You Dance" singer Womack : LEEANN
4. Org. with the Precheck program : TSA
5. "Dragnet" alert, briefly : APB
6. Compound containing 10-Down : DIOXIDE
7. Like Snow White, per the magic mirror : FAIREST
8. Some LG appliances : ACS
9. United States Constitution's first article : THE
10. Element #8 : OXYGEN
11. Cattle yard 12-Down : MOOING
12. See 11-Down : SOUNDS
15. Coward who said "I love criticism just so long as it's unqualified praise" : NOEL
18. A master of this really knows his chops : KUNGFU
19. Not so knotty : EASIER
24. Shoots up : SOARS
26. French for "grape" : RAISIN
29. Lots of sparkle : ECLAT
31. Facility often referred to by its first letter : YMCA
34. Anytown, ___ : USA
35. Anchor's place : NEWSROOM
36. "Carmina Burana" composer : CARLORFF
38. "I wonder what the word for 'dots' looks like in Braille," e.g. : ONELINER
39. Model of chivalry : LANCELOT
40. Rent : LET
43. Winter chill : NIP
44. Biotechnology output, for short : GMO
45. Poppycock : ROT
48. "The Mikado" maiden : YUMYUM
50. ___ oil : CANOLA
52. Image in Tiananmen Square : MAO
54. G.M. and G.E. : COS
55. Aqua Velva alternative : AFTA
56. Bare-chested sport : SUMO
57. Basketball legend Maravich : PETE
58. End of a Burns poem heard annually : SYNE
60. Cartoonist Chast : ROZ
61. Ambient music composer Brian : ENO
62. Urge : YEN

Answer summary: 1 unique to this puzzle, 3 debuted here and reused later.

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