Thursday June 2, 2016 — NYTimes Crossword No. 0428
Immediately noticed The Compass Rose at the center of today’s crossword puzzle. Fans of The Da Vinci Code know about the compass rose. But also, some (honored few) of you may remember the Davis, California based Bulletin Board System (BBS) of the same name, in the late 80’s/early 90’s. If you don’t know about the community of the BBS-era, then I’m sorry, you missed out.
I first saw 1D: “Act” (Perform), but didn’t take the bait, as I could not confirm any crossers. So I moved on to 4D: “Stegosaur” [which would have been wrong!! See below…] (Extinct creature with armored spikes on its back), but again, couldn’t find the crossers, so I held my water.
I finally found a word I was willing to commit to in the SW at 64A: TET (Asian holiday), I mean, what else could it be? Then I found 46D: BUTLER (Gable part), and felt an unfounded confidence with 67A: “ers” (Oral hesitations), which was a correct answer, but a wrong application, as I still didn’t get what was going on here [correctly: SRE].
Working off the final letter in “Witt,” I got 53A: TURNSTILE (Subway entrance). From there, 54D: ROWS (Spats), and a missed answer at 57A: TOLLS (Peals), I was thinking laughter and said “rolls,” when the correct connection is bells.
From there I continued to the eastern border and got: 40D: ARIL (Seed covering), thank you @crosswordkathy, I read a Blog entry about how your father gently corrected you on this one when you misanswered “Dirt” as a youngster; and 41D: NYSE (Inits. at 11 Wall Street), I didn’t know this, and, working off the “E,” made an educated guess.
I purely guessed on 48A: OTTO (Cleveland Browns great Graham), based upon the double T’s, and my growing belief that 43D would end up being a play on the direction “South.” But my mistake at 57A (the incorrect R) was blocking me, and I didn’t yet see the connection with bells.
I was also looking at 34A, noticing the convenient placement of the W next to the center rose, and the westward E next door. I started playing with the idea that the words North, South, East, and West, might extend radially from the center (which turns out to be right, but is, at best, only half the game).
That’s when I started seeing the palindromic (and near-palindromic) quality of many answers: TET, OTTO, ANA, for starters. Also 25D: EVAE (Overhang — “Eave”), which I of course had reversed [the starting and ending letters are conveniently the same, which did not slow my solution to “Eastman,” and became a major clue to me as to the true nature of this puzzle]; and 65A: SEVER (Cut off), where the center three letters are the same, forward and reverse.
Also loved 16A: ABBAJ (“Return of the Jedi” villain — “Jabba”), although I take umbrage with this one. Is Jabba the Hutt really such a bad guy? Isn’t he just a business-being trying to make it in this workaday galaxy?