Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets dedicated, mysteriously, to "Mr. W. H." Those sonnets are 14 lines long and they follow a more or less consistent rhyme scheme: abab cdcd efef gg. Art thrives within such constraints. Critics agree that despite the strict form, many of the Will S. sonnets are not bad. He did get a little cocky; some of the sonnets have 15 lines. That's called Pushing the Elizabethan Envelope.
Crossword construction has rules and conventions too and like any art form it needs them, but constructors are always looking to find something new. We solvers find beauty in the precision and naturalness of the best creations but every once in a while it's nice to be surprised too, to discover that 15th line that kicks us out of our expectations.
Rebus puzzles used to be rule breakers and now they're part of the standard playbook. They're still surprising, though, because editors only let them sneak through occasionally. Tricks like these require a careful balance. Twelve-tone (atonal) music is still new to most ears but orchestras who program it risk losing the part of their audience who aren't in the championship A Division.
The July 9 puzzle by newcomer Tim Wescott (answers) gives us a trick that is not quite unique but still rare. Since it's a Wednesday puzzle, the helpful pointer at 65 Across is explicit. We think of puzzles as grids filled with letters but before you enter your first answer letter, the grid already has a bunch of numbers. The grid numbers themselves can be the clues. The theme answers are all properties of those numbers. This requires a certain care in construction, of course. You can't just move answer words around if you get stuck working out the fill. In breaking the rules, Mr. Wescott just gave himself another constraint.
So, 25 is a square and 37 is prime and so on. It's true that 33 is a real number but that's not exactly a restrictive definition. Every clue number is not only real but rational and for that matter integer. The only possibly tricky math clue is for 6 Down. Six is a so-called perfect number, that is to say it's the sum of its divisors. The only integers that divide evenly into 6 are 1, 2, and 3. 1+2+3=6. If you're curious, the next perfect number is 28 which is 1+2+4+7+14. One of the interesting open questions in mathematics is how many perfect numbers there are. There might be an infinite number, there might not. Nobody knows. Or if they do, they're not telling.
The photo is Catfish Hunter. He's one of only 17 people to have pitched a perfect game in Major League Baseball. He did it in 1968 in front of a tiny crowd of only 6,298 fans.
KINESIS is an odd word if you're not a biologist. It means the movement of an organism in response to some stimulus, say light or sound. I didn't know Rhoda or Frasier were SPIN OFFS but that was easy enough to guess so it's a fair clue. I have to watch more TV. It's nice to see one of my heroes mentioned. James Thurber wrote Walter MITTY. Oh and my aunt Lena made an appearance too!
My favorite clue is "Bad marks" (4 letters.) Is the answer DEES? EFFS? Nope, it's ACNE. I laughed so hard I nearly popped a zit.