In the Money – The New York Times

In the Money - The New York Times
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As a bonus, we have well tagged topic entries today and not a riddle in sight. There are seven entries (width 26, 41, 49, 71, 91, 100, and 114) containing a series of shaded squares. Inside those squares is a single letter in a circle. There’s also a reveal at 119-Across and a nice clue at its mirrored entrance, 24-Across.

The themed tracks range from simple trivia to some really sweet puns, and each one is assigned a different country, which appears at the end of the track in parentheses. After reading the title of the riddle, “On the money”, and then noticing some of these countries, Qatar, Rwanda, my heart sank a bit. international currencyI thought. I’m sunk

The first couple of theme tracks failed to calm my fears, but I lucked out with 49-Across, “Give it up all at once (Ecuador)”. I had some cross letters and enough notion here to figure out the answer, GET OUT OF COLD TURKEY. The shaded squares appear at the beginning of the track, and the circle is at its fifth position: the C in COLD. TURKEY puzzled me for a moment. (What do Turkey and Ecuador have in common? Not money: Turkey has a lira and Ecuador uses the American dollar.)

Then I got 100-Across, and that’s where the shaded letters made sense. “Activity for Santa Claus (Rwanda)” solves to MAKE A LIST; the shaded squares start at K and end at I, and the circle surrounds the N in DO. Those shaded letters, KIGALI, spell the capital of Rwanda; Going back to 49-Across, QUITO now jumps out in a way that makes me wonder how I missed it.

This is one of those tracks that goes from zero to 60 when you get it I think. In each of the thematic entries, the shaded letters spell the capital of the country mentioned. That helped me a lot with trivia I didn’t even remotely know, though I still screwed up that “1998 Masters (Italy) Won Golfer” at 26-Across (as I’ll explain in a minute). It also helped me understand the two puns. I especially loved 114-Across, “One Who Walks to Work? (Qatar)”, in which one’s vocation involves movement, such as DOG MANAGER: DOHA is shaded and G is circled.

That revealer, in 119-Across, “What are the circled letters in this puzzle relative to the surrounding shaded squares?” makes a great shot. Those extra letters represent CAPITAL GAINS, that is, increases to each capital city. However, those circled letters found me in a troublesome spot.

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