All Aflutter – The New York Times

81-Across is the crux of the matter, the reference point to all of the other theme entries. It wasnt the first one that I solved, though. I broke in, using ample crosses, on 24-Across, clued as Mathematical field that includes the 81-Across. Its a field of study that applies to everything mathematics, biology, chemistry, economics, physics and more. This gave me insight to 81-Across, but it wasnt a giveaway by any means.

There is also a four-part definition of 81-Across that reads from 3- to 16-Down, then continues on to 109- and 113-Across. Tantalizing fragments of these entries helped put me over the edge and figure out the critical entry and the visual element that goes with it.

81-Across is the BUTTERFLY EFFECT, a phenomenon that was first explained as such by a meteorology professor at M.I.T. in the 1960s. The initial discovery involved an infinitesimal change to one variable in a complex equation, which when spun out changed its trajectory dramatically.

ONE SMALL THING / CAN MAKE ALL THE / DIFFERENCE / IN THE WORLD

are the four parts of the simple definition of this phenomenon. Notice where those entries are in the grid, and picture them as a frame. You should be able to see an actual butterfly within: Its body is the six vertical boxes at the grids very center, and its bilaterally symmetrical wings reach out to either side. (If it helps, the BUTTERFLY EFFECT runs through the wings and sticks out by two boxes on each side. I have GARB and CALF forming the tops of the wings and BARD and SRTA the very bottoms.)

There is another element that Im afraid online solvers might pass right over (this is where I, solving on paper, came a cropper). There are two entries at 62- and 63-Across that are separated by one square, a part of the grid butterflys abdomen. Rushing around as usual, I solved both on crosses and missed their separate clues, so I simply saw TOR __ ADO, clued as A.L. East team or, using the shaded square (online, changing a nearby black square) what a little movement by this puzzles subject might cause. I didnt realize that ADO was actually separately clued, as Kerfuffle, so I spent some time trying to figure out what a baseball team had to do with a twister (thinking there might be a different bit of wordplay involved there).

That final word, that we create as solvers by adding the N, has to do with a seminal paper on this topic, published by Dr. Edward U. Lorenz, the meteorology professor, called Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterflys Wings in Brazil Set off a TORNADO in Texas? If youre solving on paper, you do need to deduce the N; online, I think the N just magically appears, perhaps floated in by a blue morpho on the Amazon (or a British tailors arm).

Im so thrilled to be back on a Sunday today! Sunday puzzles are where my heart is, as I have very fond memories of solving them each week with my dad. I know visuals in crosswords arent for everyone, but its something I always adored from before I started constructing. Liz Gorskis Sunday visual masterpieces are the reason I started constructing in the first place, so Im incredibly proud to have three NYT Sundays on the books, all with visual elements.

This idea came from a discussion about grid art on the crossword Discord server where I used a butterfly as an example of something that was both symmetrical and simple enough to be represented nicely in a grid. When THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT popped into my head later, and knowing the success of other philosophical concepts as crossword themes, I knew I was onto something. Figuring out a way for the solver to have a part in demonstrating THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT by placing that keystone N in the center to form the TORNADO was the extra push I needed to really make this special. I realize this gimmick will work better on paper than online, as in the magazine its printed with a gray square in that spot, so my apologies to the online solvers. I hope you were able to get what I was going for anyway, and appreciate it all the same.

I hope you enjoyed this puzzle, and took away a message of empowerment from it we are each just one individual, but we can still have a massive effect on the world.

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All Aflutter - The New York Times

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