Well, I'll be the first to say it's been an odd week here at the NYT crossword puzzle. Today's puzzle fits in with the peculiar stylings we've seen so far. It was challenging, which I enjoy, and I definitely had to work hard in several areas to figure out even the non-thematic stuff, which itself was an interesting and Thursday style challenge.
The revealer is at 40A: One way to run ... or a hint to four geographical intersections found in this grid (CROSSCOUNTRY). Fittingly, we find four answers which cross each other only by adding a letter to each answer, which then result in crossing countries. Thus, 4D (MAL) and 21A (SURNAME) meet only by adding an I to create the two countries Mali and Suriname.
The challenge was to find the four spots where you had to add a letter to make the crossing countries, and to recognize what letter would work to create the countries. I love adding an R to NOWAY and WANDA to make Norway and Rwanda.
To add an extra level, if you look at the four letters added, you get I-R-A-N, yet another country. That's some great second level puzzlemaking.
Some tough entries in the fill made solving tough. For example, IBMPCS is a mighty peculiar collection of consonants. 57A: English channel, familiarly (THEBEEB) is a classic bit of misdirection. 69A: Small storage unit (ONEMEG) is a real hard get. I stared at 64A: Wiggle room (MARGIN) for a long time before filling in the last letter (the R).
I am proud to say that Cece taught me the answer to 25A: Need for making pochoir prints (STENCIL) this year, from her art classes in college.
I wanted THRObS at 47A: Pangs (THROES), but recognized that bLEMENT just couldn't be correct. Thank goodness for the lessons I (barely) learned earlier this week with my many errors.
Fun puzzle. CANYOUDIGIT?