Super Tuesday is coming this week and that seemed like reason enough for a theme on the United States. From the start, you come across starred clues. 23A: [*Ships] seems to be SENDS and right next to it at 24A: [*“Groundhog Day” director] seems to be RAMIS. But something is wrong with the crossings. 3D: [Getaway] East LAM which would apparently make SENDS incorrect.
However, SEND East the correct answer to this index. A set of four long Down responses and the central revealer of REVERSED at 66A: [Turned, as states on the electoral map (and in this puzzle)] help explain what’s going on. The puzzle consists of four pairs of words that contain different postal abbreviations for American states. You must swap these status abbreviations between responses on the same line for their indices to make sense:
- 23A: [*Ships] is SENorth DakotaS and 24A: [*“Groundhog Day” director] is RAMIDS but they appear in the grid as SEMIDS and RANorth DakotaS. This pair is explained by 16D: [Hypothetical upload of a person’s memories into another brain … or a three-piece hint to the substitutions in this puzzle’s third row?] Which one is TRANSFER OF MIND. You should read this as MID / ND TRANSFER, the two words exchanging the abbreviations for Michigan and North Dakota.
- 45A: [*Legendary monster said to resemble a plesiosaur] East BORNSSIE and 46A: [*Endures] East THESTS, appearing as THERSER and BORNSTS. They are explained by CHANGE OF TRACK to 13D: [Movement that may precede passing … or a three-piece hint to the substitutions in this puzzle’s seventh row?], exchanging Louisiana and Nebraska.
- 87A: [*Grace’s portrayer on “Will 039;Grace”] East OFBRA and 89A: [*Tilted, as one’s head] East COCKED, appearing as COBRA and OFCKED. They are explained by CODE SWITCH at 72D: [Shift between dialects in conversations … or a three-piece hint to the substitutions in this puzzle’s 15th row?], trading Colorado and Delaware.
- 108A: [*Island whose official languages are Dutch and Papiamento] East ARUBA and 110A: [*What a hound picks up] East Caroline from the southENT, appearing as Caroline from the southUBA and AREN’T. They are explained by SCAR REVIEW to 61D: [Plastic surgery procedure for making skin marks less noticeable … or a three-piece hint to the substitutions in this puzzle’s 19th row?], trading South Carolina and Arkansas.
I set myself many constraints during the theme construction phase which gave me several adjustments.
1) The four explanatory sentences had to have a first four-letter word containing two consecutive state abbreviations and the second word had to allude to trade, exchange or substitution in one way or another.
2) I could not reuse a state abbreviation in the followed answers.
3) Answers marked with a star had to be legitimate words before and after the abbreviations were changed, and responses had to be significantly different after the change. For example, COSIGN and DESIGN can change the CO and DE for a substitution of CODE SWITCH, but COSIGN and DESIGN contain the same basic root word of SIGN, so these were not different enough for my taste.
4) The starred answers must contain a and only one state abbreviation each so as not to create unnecessary confusion as to why there were wandering states that were not reversed. For example, LACKS and NECKS can switch the LA and the NE for a LANE CHANGE substitution, but they both contain KS which is the state abbreviation for Kansas, so this has been removed.
5) I still had to produce a symmetrical grid.
Certainly, SCAR REVISION was a bit of a compromise for everything to work. It was not a sentence I had heard before writing this puzzle. That said, it surprised me at the number of visits it received in quotes on Google (more than 600,000) and in Google News searches (more than 1,000), which seemed sufficient for me to run. with. This and other explanatory phrases like ARMS TRADE and WIND SHIFT simply did not produce enough actionable words for the changes to occur.
Either way, it’s a lot of backstory for this puzzle, but I hope you were able to break it and enjoy it. I’ll see you in this space next week to talk about the guests’ crossword puzzles. My next puzzle will appear on March 15.