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And So On

Pao Roy pays close attention to detail.

Tira, a polka-dot zebra foal who lives at the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya, has a rare genetic mutation in which an animal’s stripe pattern displays abnormally.
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Jump to: Tricky Clues | Today’s Theme

THURSDAY PUZZLE — This is only Pao Roy’s fourth crossword for The New York Times, and he’s already shown himself to be a good constructor of late-week puzzles, including a very tricky Thursday one.

Speaking of tricky Thursdays — how’s that for a segue? — Mr. Roy offers us a theme type that once upset a lot of solvers. Personally, I think Mr. Roy’s puzzle is easier to navigate, and that made me appreciate the theme more.

Note that I didn’t say it was easy. It definitely requires an open mind. Once you crack his theme, however, the rest should fall into place.

64A. Reception has two meanings: It can mean the quality of a television or radio signal, and it can mean the party after a wedding. In this puzzle, the answer to “Not get reception?” is ELOPE.

30D. “Space heaters?” are very useful for heating individual rooms, if you go by one definition of “space.” But consider the heaters in outer space: Those would be SUNS.

Hey, remember this bidirectional rebus puzzle by August Miller, which caused a lot of people to feel dotty because they weren’t sure how to read or enter those rebuses?

Mr. Roy is asking us to DOT THE I’S again. Solvers can write either DOT or D in the relevant square.

I mean, you knew something was up, right? There had to be a reason that some of your answers weren’t fitting into their slots. So maybe you had a partially solved puzzle, and you came to Wordplay for help. Or maybe you came to leave an anguished comment about how the puzzle was broken and you would like your money back.

Before we proceed with an explanation of the theme, I would like us all to gather together and recite a short affirmation, because I believe that some perspective is needed. I think we should recognize that there are issues, and then there are issues, so, please, repeat after me:

We thank you, Mr. Roy,
For this crossword that we are currently puzzling over,
We may not have any idea where to put the dots in your puzzle,
But at least you have never put peas in guacamole.

Seriously, this is not that hard if you pay close attention to what you’re doing. And it’s unlikely to provoke reactions of “Are you kidding me?” from both a former president and a former Florida governor on Twitter.

Oh, one more thing: If you are solving online or in the app, please read the related article on entering rebuses.

There are seven i’s in Mr. Roy’s puzzle, and they need to be DOTted, as the revealer clue at 56A tells us (“Pay attention to details … or a hint to filling in seven of this puzzle’s squares”).

This means that we need to enter the word DOT in the square above each i in the grid — and please note that the only i’s in the puzzle are in its theme, an elegant touch that constructors sometimes use to polish their grid.

Here’s the important part: When read across, the rebus is DOT. When read down, DOT and the i are read together, as a single letter: i.

For example — and this is the one that took me the longest to solve — at 10A, the clue is “And so on.” My first guess was “etc.,” but the answer is DOT DOT DOT (read as “…”). When read down, the answer to the clue “Nest egg option, for short” is written [DOT I]RA, or simply IRA.

Let’s do one more. The answer to 51A’s “Turn-of-the-century financial crisis” is DOT COM CRASH and, when read down, the answer to 36D’s “Some baked entrees” is POTP[DOT I]ES, or POTPIES.

In the spirit of the day, thank you to the editors and constructors who actively create space for representation, in terms of whose puzzles get published and what people, places and parts of language get featured in those puzzles. Thank you to the bloggers, commenters and solvers who actively encourage dialogue around how we, as a crossword community, can continue supporting the voices of the marginalized.

First, I want to acknowledge that August Miller’s Feb. 10 puzzle has an identical revealer to this one. My puzzle was submitted in 2020 and accepted in 2021, so I felt shaken up and disheartened to see such a similar puzzle published, knowing mine was to follow. Now, I can appreciate each puzzle’s unique flavor and understand the editors’ choice to run both. I hope enough time has passed and solvers can still enjoy this one for what it is.

This puzzle was really challenging to make! The theme’s premise prevented me from using the (very helpful) letter “I” anywhere else in the grid outside the themed entries. Also, the editors and I wanted every dot in the puzzle to represent the actual word “DOT,” so a lot of other potential theme entries like DO THE RIGHT THING were off-limits.

The most complicated constraint to navigate was the way that each dot spelled the letters “D-O-T” going horizontally, but was essentially a blank space going vertically. Long story short: After solving Tom McCoy’s March 21, 2021 puzzle, I asked Mr. McCoy for guidance, since it had a similar use of “blank” squares. Without getting too nerdy, he was incredibly supportive in helping develop a Python script and custom word lists that made filling the grid a lot less impossible. Thank you, Mr. McCoy.

Favorite clues that were kept: CHAOS, IMAC, ELOPE, SYMBOLS, ALOE, PANGAEA, SUNS, TSO, BDAY and EMO.

The last person I want to thank is my best friend and first crossword buddy, Harrison. “Paying attention to the details” has been a longstanding inside joke of ours. This puzzle is dedicated to our friendship.

The New York Times Crossword has an open submission system, and you can submit your puzzles online.

For tips on how to get started, read our series, “How to Make a Crossword Puzzle.”

Almost finished solving but need a bit more help? We’ve got you covered.

Spoiler alert: Subscribers can take a peek at the answer key.

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