See Children Through to Adulthood – The New York Times

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Ruth Bloomfield Margolin brings up some good points and doesn’t let us down.
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THURSDAY PUZZLE — Those who find comfort in routine do so, I believe, because the human brain has been designed to find peace in sameness and to feel aversion to perceived loss. One theory says that uncertainty registers in the brain the same way an error does. Another says that people become anxious when they are not sure if they are capable of making a sudden change. Routines become automatic, the professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter said in a 2012 Harvard Business Review article, but change jolts us into consciousness, sometimes in uncomfortable ways.
I hear about this uncertainty in the Wordplay comments whenever a puzzle format lies outside the expectations of the solvers, as when a rebus pops up or things need to be read backward. (Hey, we haven’t had one of those in a while! Maybe they will make a comeback.) When that happens, solvers are quick to protest that they were expecting a crossword puzzle, darn it, and whatever this thing they just solved was, it certainly didn’t qualify as a crossword.
If you are just dipping a toe into Thursday-level themes, you may experience this unsettling sense of frequent changes, but I hope you will welcome them with an open mind and a sense of humor. Working themes that you haven’t seen before brings you one step closer to being the kind of solver you want to be in terms of experience. And your enjoyment will be worlds greater than the same old, same old.
Today’s puzzle by Ruth Bloomfield Margolin is a bit different, but it’s eminently gettable if you think outside the box. And I encourage you to do so.
10A. Of course my first instinct was to write BONA fide into this four-letter slot, but I took it out as soon as I got MIMI for 10D’s “‘La Bohème’ seamstress.” The answer to this fill-in-the-blank clue is MALA fide.
28A. You may not have noticed this about me, but my primary motivator in life is food. So I was happy to see ATTA clued as the whole-wheat flour used to make rotis and other kinds of Indian breads. It’s far nicer, in my opinion, than the played-out “___ boy!” or “___ girl!”
33A. Have we really had to wait more than 40 years for GOOD NEWS? Its last appearance in the New York Times Crossword was in 1978.
47A. I just barely remember the puppet Topo Gigio, and that was from watching reruns of “The Ed Sullivan Show” with my parents. The answer to the clue “Number of puppeteers needed to manipulate Topo Gigio” is TRE (three), because Topo was an Italian mouse and the clue is being treated as a foreign language one. Apparently, his creators were ahead of their time and manipulated Topo using wands rather than strings, a method that would later be used for Jim Henson’s Muppets.
48A. My first guess for the “Walkie-talkie word” was “copy,” but later I realized the answer was OVER.
6D. “Slaughter in Cooperstown” is not about violence. The answer is the baseball player ENOS Slaughter, who is in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
8D. I love clues that offer two ways to get to the same answer. “Pinker or greener, perhaps” is RAWER. If meat is pinker, it’s RAWER, and if people are new, or green, they are said to be raw.
38D. I loved this one. “Defend borders?” is not hinting at a military maneuver. It’s actually asking for the borders of the word “defend,” and the answer is DEES, as in the letter D.
First, let’s acknowledge the two large mammals in the room (please feel free to choose whatever mammals you prefer): This is not a rebus puzzle. And there is no revealer in Ms. Margolin’s puzzle, which means that we have to figure out an unusual theme for ourselves.
Those are not the parts you should be worried about, though. If you’re going to worry about anything, ponder the fact that some of the letters in the answers have escaped the grid. That’s what I meant when I encouraged you to think outside the box.
You should keep these wayward letters in mind, however, because doing so will make solving infinitely easier. I’ll explain what I mean by that.
The theme as a whole is about things that can be raised or lowered. The raised items extend through the top of the grid at 3-, 5-, 9- and 11D when reading from left to right. For example, the answer to the clue “Make one’s opposition known, literally,” as written into the grid, is BJECTIONS. But if you raise the entry by one row — even though that’s outside the grid — by adding an O, you are “literally,” as the clue says, raising OBJECTIONS.
Similarly, the lowered entries are at 52-, 29-, 60- and 36D. If you “Show respect to one’s neighbors late at night, literally,” as 52D asks, you might lower the VOLUME, which would make the E burst through the lower boundary of the grid.
That’s not so bad, right? You can do this. It may just take you a bit longer to think things through.
If you have questions about the theme — other than “Is this even legal?” — put them in the comments and someone will help you. That’s what our community is all about.
I enjoy puzzles that play with idioms — often by making them literal and skewing their meaning entirely — so I look for phrases that give me such opportunities. I particularly enjoy finding ones that can be depicted graphically in a puzzle. This can make building a solid grid pretty difficult, but that’s my own fun, challenging part of the puzzle.
Initially I thought I would include the complete raised/lowered words in an atypical grid with squares protruding above and below, but that would have made 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-Down all theme answers, and the grid itself would have revealed the theme pretty quickly. So, instead, I left it to the solver to discover the need to write the extra letters above or below the grid. (I do, however, have friends who aren’t crossword solvers but who enjoy hearing that I’ve had another puzzle published. I made an easier version for them with the more obvious grid. They enjoy having a connection to the Crossword!)
There were many options of idioms that mention up and down. I could have used “put down roots,” “dropped anchor,” “lifted weights” or “pulled up stakes.” I hope that this puzzle “lifted your spirits” without “raising your hackles,” even if you needed to ask a friend to “drop a hint.”
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.”
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