A Famous Photograph – The New York Times

MONDAY PUZZLE — Crossword constructors are experts at acknowledging holidays, people of note and important events. Grids in general are not the most flexible things, but I am always astounded by how much puzzle makers can wring out of them to get their message across.

Sunday, Feb. 23 marked the 75th anniversary of the 1945 battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, and when a group of marines raised an American flag on Mt. Suribachi, the Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal was there to capture it on film.

Contrary to popular belief, this was not the first flag raised on Mt. Suribachi, nor was it the first victory photograph taken. Hours earlier, the Marine photographer Louis Lowery shot photos of another group of Marines raising a flag farther down the mountain. But Mr. Rosenthal’s picture became the most recognizable and reproduced photograph in U.S. history, and it won him a Pulitzer Prize.

Sorry, the history geek in me got us a bit off track. This puzzle by Jacob Stulberg might not seem like typical Monday fare, but I’m sure we are solving it today so that it runs as close to the 75th anniversary as possible (it’s obviously not a Sunday puzzle).

And as somber as this occasion is, Mr. Stulberg’s puzzle is a fun way to start your solving week even if you are not familiar with the battle of Iwo Jima. The theme uses a schtick that more advanced solvers will recognize almost right away, but it’s good for beginning solvers to gain experience with somewhat complex themes.

Let’s hoist one to Mr. Stulberg for a fun Monday crossword.

Hello, beginning solvers! I’ll bet when you picked up your first-ever crossword, you thought “Never will I be asked to read the answers in any way but left to right or top to bottom. Anything else is nonsensical and Will Shortz would never do that to us.”

Well. Allow me to disabuse you of that notion (about the answers, not about Will; he would absolutely do that to us). In crossword puzzles, we are sometimes asked to read entries from right to left, from bottom to top, on the diagonal and inside the black squares (don’t ask).

Anyway, this theme by Mr. Stulberg is not where you would expect a Monday theme to be. The long Downs are where it’s at: AL FRESCO, LEGAL FORCE and KING ALFRED. The revealer is at 15D, and the answer is RAISING THE FLAG.

You might be sitting there wondering, what do these entries have to do with each other? Has Mr. Stulberg lost it?

The short answer is “No.” We are being asked to find flags in each of the theme entries and “raise” them.

You also need to know something about crossword themes: When a theme entry is a Down answer and is read from top to bottom, it can sometimes imply a downward movement. Conversely, when it is read from bottom to top, that can sometimes imply an upward movement.

Not unlike RAISING something. Like a FLAG.

Let’s look at the theme entries once more. I can’t type them vertically, but pretend that you are reading these from bottom to top:

DINING AL FRESCO

LEGAL FORCE

KING ALFRED

And all of the FLAGs straddle more than one word. That’s pretty cool.

So what do you say, beginning solvers? Have you got this? Sure you do. You’re ready for Tuesdays, I can tell.

23A. Loved the “daily grind?” wordplay for BARISTAS.

4D. For me, DINING AL FRESCO is inextricably linked to “The Producers.” The one with Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel.

I constructed and submitted this puzzle in 2016 without even considering the then-upcoming anniversary of its subject.

Four years later, I’m glad to see it appear on such an apt day. Favorite answer: GAMY, whose clue acquired its last four words en route to publication.

Almost finished solving but need a bit more help? We’ve got you covered.

Warning: There be spoilers ahead, but subscribers can take a peek at the answer key.

Trying to get back to the puzzle page? Right here.

Your thoughts?

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