Letterplay - The New York Times
Aug 07, 2022 1 min, 38 secs
It has one of my favorite kinds of themes — one offering many different ‘ahas.’ The example at 118-Across, at the bottom of the puzzle, is a little different from the others, like the kicker of a joke.

That kind of praise sets a high bar for any puzzle, let alone a debut, and today’s slow burner of a theme doesn’t disappoint.

I helmet, informally” — outnumber a clue like “Stereotypical wear for the paranoid,” which can also define this entry, by 16 to 1 in the Times crossword.

I’m impressed by anyone who gets a clue like this straight away; I needed crosses.

This is another theme with paired entries — we’ve seen a few of these lately, and they add a nice layer of deduction to solving, even when the two entries are connected in the clues or in the digital puzzle presentation.

You will probably run into, and solve, theme entries in random order — I certainly did.

This clue happens to be quite near its paired entry, which is 52-Across: “D.S.T.

I got to 90-Across, “Club for farm kids … or a hint to 97-Across,” and figured it had to be “4-H.” If the entry hadn’t been five letters long, I’d have probably tried HHHH; instead, I sat on it for a bit and tried 97-Across, “Secretive.” Because of some crossing letters, I got this entry right: HUSH-HUSH.

Its companion clue is at 71-Across, “23rd in a series … or a hint to 27-Across.” We’re dealing with “Letterplay,” so the series that comes to mind is naturally alphabetical, but what does “W” (the 23rd letter) have to do with the entry at 27-Across.

“Quadruple” doesn’t fit; the entry is FOUR H.

(It’s almost a sequence, anyway. It’s missing “one,” or “single,” and instead goes ZERO — TWO — DOUBLE — TRIPLE — FOUR — FIVE.) That ZERO entry is a coup de grâce

54-Across, “Weightlessness … or a hint to 118-Across,” is ZERO G

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