NYT Crossword Clue: Field work of note in 1979

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SUNDAY PUZZLE — Christina Iverson and Jeff Chen team up this week for a feat of grid architecture worthy of a nomination for the Pritzker Prize. You’ll see their grid has a sort of loaf-shape of white squares sitting at bottom center, completely walled off from the rest of the puzzle. That’s intentional. Another sign you might be in for an adventure? The instructions at the top.

When this puzzle is done, insert the five shaded jigsaw pieces into the box at the bottom to get a three-word phrase, reading across, for what jigsaw puzzles provide.

The shaded jigsaw pieces are scattered around the grid, and you are meant to fit them together, ultimately, to fill that little platform at the bottom. But first you have to solve the puzzle.

Tricky Clues

The clues here can be bewildering, frustrating or downright corny. In short, a blast. Try the bedeviling clue at 72A, “More like a dive bar or certain bread?”

This isn’t unexpected for a puzzle whose first answer is CRUST, but I had trouble reconciling the idea of bread with the concept of a hole in the wall. I flipped through my phone to consult a recent group text I’d had with my sisters about the bars we used to haunt during our respective college tours in Bloomington, Ind. Surely reviewing those dives would help. The chat had migrated from watering holes to the now-long-gone Rudi’s bakery and its addictive poppy seed cake. And therein was the answer I needed to 72A, SEEDIER, which describes both bars and bread, and a recipe to boot.

By contrast, 21A was “Axe target,” a seemingly simple clue. So, trees, right? Oaks? Not oaks. And not that kind of axe. The target of Axe, the brand name for a suite of overpowering men’s fragrance products, is ODOR. I didn’t realize that this line was still in existence. I remember keenly when my nephews discovered the cologne in adolescence and moved through a room like a pair of dueling weather fronts.

Where a Zipper Gets Caught

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THURSDAY PUZZLE — One of the best parts of solving puzzles every day for a living — other than the fact that I get to solve puzzles every day for a living — is watching how constructors can take an idea, put their own spin on it and make an entirely unique crossword.

The revealer in Max Carpenter’s puzzle made its debut in a 2001 crossword by Brendan Emmett Quigley, and when it was published, there was a good amount of awed hubbub in the constructing community that someone had managed to get such a great phrase into a grid. In fact, the crosswords editor Will Shortz later included it in his book, “Will Shortz’s Favorite Puzzles From the Pages of The New York Times,” with the blurb “My favorite part of this puzzle is 23-Across, a colorful, funny phrase that everyone has heard, but which I’m sure no one had ever thought to put in a crossword before.”

Mr. Quigley’s puzzle had a different (Wednesday-level) theme, but Mr. Carpenter took the phrase and made it even better, in my opinion. Or at least, he has turned it into a Thursday-level puzzle, which happens to be my jam.

Congratulations on the debut, Mr. Carpenter. I hope that you milk this for everything it’s worth with your friends and family. I’m thinking it’s at least worth a Porsche.

Made an Impression

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My point is, your brain loves to fill in missing information. So you would typically see a clue with a blank, thank your brain for pulling the correct file and then write the answer into the grid, right?

Not in Mr. Charlson’s puzzle. Today is Thursday, and that would be far too easy.

What we have here is a sort of inverted fill-in-the-blank theme, where we are literally putting the word “fill” in the blank space in the clue. The entry is the definition of the clue, instead of the other way around.

Say what, Deb?

Let’s look at an example. At 19A, the clue is “Land ___.” The answer could be any one of a number of things, but we have a 12-letter slot to fill. The entry turns out to be DISPOSAL AREA, which I got through the crossings, but how does that help us with the clue?

Here’s where the pillow duct-taped to your forehead comes in. (You did read the intro, right?)

All we have to do to solve the clue, as it were, is put the word “fill” in the blank. So, we have “Land fill” in the clue, and that turns out to be a perfectly cromulent answer to the entry DISPOSAL AREA.

Got that? Good, let’s look at another one.

At 22A, the clue is “___more and more,” and the entry is PRESIDENTS. Put the word “fill” in the blank, and you get “Fillmore and more.” It takes a sharp eye to see that there is no space between the blank and the first “more,” which makes it a single word. Millard Fillmore was a U.S. president, and the “and more” makes it plural.

And finally, at 40A, the NEWSCASTER (for one) in the grid is Gwen Ifill.

All of this is revealed at 48A, where the clue is “Test format … or a hint to understanding three of this puzzle’s clues” and the answer, of course, is FILL IN THE BLANK.

You can remove the pillow now, but be careful with the duct tape. That stuff can hurt when you pull it off.