Spectral color

Evan Birnholz’s June 5 crossword solution, “Color Separation”

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When you first look at the blank grid of this puzzle, you’ll notice that it breaks a cardinal rule of most crossword puzzles: the grid has been bisected by an entire row of black squares. There are also a handful of Down answers that don’t seem to match their clues. 44D: [Neighbor of Ghana] is four letters long, and if you’re not completely sure about African geography, you can browse CHAD, MALI, or TOGO before you see that none of them match the cross answers. What’s going on?

There are two key clues, one at 23A: [1979 Top 40 hit sung by Kermit the Frog … and what you’ll need to join both halves of this puzzle] Which one is RAINBOW CONNECTIONand the other is at 115A: [Spanning an entire range … and a hint to this puzzle’s seven hidden letters] Which one is ACROSS THE SPECTRUM. Seven themed downward phrases that feature a color break through the center row of black squares, with secret letters that spell out the Rainbow Spectrum acronym ROYGBIV from left to right:

  • 32D: [Washington state resort area with a colorful name] is B-POINTROWN. It starts with B-POINTcontains a hidden letter R in the row of black squares, then ends at 66D: [BYOB or MYOB part] Which one is OWN.
  • 39D: [Reef organism that doesn’t have a hard skeleton] is SWEET CORAL. It starts with SWEET Ccontains a hidden letter Oand ends with RAL at 69D: [N.C. capital].
  • 44D: [Neighbor of Ghana] is IVORYes COAST. It starts with IVORcontains a hidden letter Yesand ends with COAST at 71D: [Proceed without much effort].
  • 50D: [Earned the top medal at an Olympic event] is WON gOLD. It starts with WONcontains a hidden letter gand ends with OLD at 74D: [Navy or guard preceder]. This one might be a little harder to spot than the others because the index for 50D could plausibly be described as WON by itself without GOLD.
  • 41D: [Like an unlit cave] is GROUND BLACK. It starts with GROUNDcontains a hidden letter Band ends with LACK at 76D: [Dearth]. It’s likely that BLACK ended up being the color that runs through the long row of black squares.
  • 52D: [Grayscale alternative, in vintage photos] is SEPITONE. It starts with SEP, contains a hidden letter Iand ends with EXPIATE at 79D: [Demonstrate penitence].
  • 55D: [Comstock Lode excavation] is SILVER MINE. It starts with SILcontains a hidden letter Vand ends with ERMINE at 81D: [White-furred creature held by Cecilia Gallerani in a Leonardo da Vinci painting].

When I started to script this idea, I thought it would be pretty easy to come up with phrases with different colors and specific letters that spell ROYGBIV. What really made things much more difficult, however, was that I wanted every apparent answer in the puzzle on both sides of the center row of black squares to be a legitimate crossword entry. That’s why I opted for POINT BROWN at 32D, even though that area of ​​Washington State isn’t on the tip of every solvers’ tongue, because POINT B and OWN are answers you might see in an otherwise normal puzzle. Other short entries like SEP and SIL and RAL aren’t necessarily scintillating answers on their own, but they maintain what was a fairly limited set of themes and they’ve each made numerous appearances in puzzles before.

If you solved this problem online, you had the opportunity to enter these ROYGBIV secret letters in the right places. You can also do this in printed form, but it’s easier to view the complete solution electronically. Thanks to AmuseLabs for making this possible.