Blue streak

I bought a NY Times this past Sunday, but when I got home, I discovered much to my dismay that the Sunday magazine was missing. I could see from browsing on line that the articles were about movies, which was great, but what I couldn't do online and the reason I really wanted to run out to buy another copy was that I wanted to do the crossword. It's a Sunday ritual for me. But it was really late, and I didn't feel like changing to trek to the nearest newsstand in the evening chill to spend another $3.50.
Monday or Tuesday, when I brought my recycling down to the basement, I spotted a brown grocery bag full of NYTimes. On a whim, I started to flip through them, and I had just about reached the end when, much to my delight, I found a fresh copy of the NYTimes Magazine.
Rachael and I often confer on the Sunday crossword via e-mail, and she called today to ask about a few clues. I hadn't started, but while we were on the phone, I got sucked in. Whenever I had to take a break from the computer and my grad school applications, I'd sit on the couch, brow furrowed, pen in mouth, staring the puzzle down. This was a tough one because at first the theme didn't register with me. My frustration just drove me to greater levels of determination and concentration.
Rachael gave me one big jump start by letting me know that...
[MILD SPOILER AHEAD...Don't read ahead if you are determined to solve this one on your own]
...this was a puzzle in which some of the squares contained more than just a single letter. Those appear from time to time, though sometimes it takes some time to recognize it.
And just about an hour ago, it finally struck me. Holy #@%*&! Of course! Brilliant! I inadvertently unlocked the puzzle for myself when I had to abbreviate the answer to a particular square because I couldn't write small enough. My abbreviation proved to be the visual clue that unlocked the entire puzzle for me. And if you peruse this post again, you'll find an answer key in plain view.
Definitely one of the cleverest crosswords I've ever done. Immensely satisfying to finish. Bravo to Harvey Estes and Nancy Salomon.