Hints and Tips on Puzzles for the New York Times Archives
I only blog after I’ve done the puzzle myself, usually the evening before it appears in the printed paper, five weeks before the syndicated puzzle appears. The blog gives hints, not direct answers, to help you get un-stuck without giving away the answers! Bookmark this page and then you won’t get a direct answer the minute you google. If you’re new to NY Times Crosswords, check out Words Every Puzzler Should Know. For some general tips, click here.
This blog has no advertising or commercial aspect. I assume people who come here love words and like thinking about things. It’s here because I like doing it, hate being given answers directly, and hope you’ll check out the rest of the site while you’re here.
New recommended NYT Crossword puzzle & BEQ puzzles; update on Other Box; Exciting fall season coming to Hooker-DunhamdrJ : August 21, 2015 9:59 pm : NYT, Update Announcement
A while back I started going through the NYT crossword puzzle archive looking for particularly good ones. It’s taken a while to come across one that meets the criteria I set in the article, but working my way backwards from the earliest ones you can get from the archive, the one from Saturday, March 19, 1994 is a good one. I hadn’t looked who the author was until I was more than halfway done and beginning to think this was a really good one and, sure enough, it was written by Manny Nosowsky, my all time favorite constructor. Very little crossword-ese, few gimmes and many words that can be figured out once you get a couple letters, and some nice well known expressions that aren’t overly well-known to crossword solvers. Several clues I really was curious to find out what the answer would turn out to be, like “Bryophytic” (My Mac doesn’t even think that’s a real word!). Anyway, if you’re looking for a challenging puzzle worth trying and have a NY Times puzzle subscription, I highly recommend it. (btw: Today’s (Saturday, Aug. 22) NYT Crossword puzzle Barry Silk’s puzzle is a good one with lots of interesting phrases. Silk is also one of the all time best puzzle creators.
UPDATE: I am also a huge fan of Brendan Emmet Quigley’s puzzle site: www.brendanemmettquigley.com. His puzzle for Monday, Aug. 24 is a wonderful tribute to one of the greatest puzzle creators (no, not Nosowsky this time) and very aptly titled. There’s no cost or even log in required for the site, though donations are accepted.
Meanwhile: I’m almost done with The Other Box where that takes up where the short story left off. It’s turning into at least a novella and possibly a full-length book. I’m setting April 1, 2o16 as a deadline for myself for completing the book and publishing it here.
Tons of events happening at the Hooker-Dunham starting on Labor Day and continuing at least into November. There are also two exciting theater projects in the works for this coming spring, so keep an eye on the site to see what’s happening at the theater. Some really cool stuff, including a very exciting (and scary!) production of Dracula (last two weeks in October) that’s certain to be unique and entertaining! I’ve started writing ideas about what makes Dracula an enduring fascination and will be publishing blog entries on it in the next few days.
Added a page of favorite puzzles from the NYT archives (Possible spoiler: You have to have a nyt online puzzle subscription). And I certainly must mention Brendan Emmet Quigley’s site as an outstanding resource of excellent puzzles. Some clue/answer combos are slightly off-color if that matter to you. Monday’s are the hardest…and they always meet my criteria of being challenging and having some clue/answer combos you’re glad you found out by solving the puzzle and other clue/answer combos that are just very clever. (http://www.brendanemmettquigley.com)
It seems like every Sunday these days we get a theme that’s very clever from the constructor’s point of view, but not very exciting from the solver’s perspective. Oh, well. As always, pay close attention to the title. Solve one of the starred answers (by doing lots of the crossing clues if you need to). Once you’ve got one, look at the title again and see how it relates to the correct answer. That should help solving the others. There’s a little of what I’d call “misdirection” in the starred clues, making you wonder, for example, if they are all anagrams or something like that. There is some word play within the clue/answer combos, but not a consistent specific pattern. I suspect the author of the puzzle might have been starting out going for something in addition to his “A” game theme.
Some specific hints”
6. Modernist Kafka: the “modernist” label threw me off. This guy was “modern” a long time ago.
7. A bridge might have one: Some bridges have lots of these. The GWB famously had theirs reduced for revenge recently.
8. Lord of the rings villain: “Villain”? Enemy, sure. Ugly. Yeh!
11. Designer McCartney: Or: Stanley Kowalski’s wife
48. Something woeful: 2 words
71. Chip on one’s shoulder, say: the clue should probably have identified the answer as slang
80. Stone figures?: Think small, expensive “stones”
83. Louis Armstrong, to friends: I guess those who knew him well didn’t need to use the final MO, no mo’.
86. Houston’s old ______ Field: If you could bilk millions out of your customers, you’d get to name a field after your company too.
91. Prefix with -hedron: No, not TETRA, more obscure. This kind of “hedron” has 20 faces, not that that helps much.
Nothing very mysterious about the theme this week. Only hint here is to note that the “solution,” i.e. who committed the crime in what place by what means, is to be figured out in the lower right hand box. Obviously, it’s a bit help if remember a little bit of the board game “Clue.” Otherwise it’s just a matter of filling in enough of the crossing clues to figure it out.
Here are a few hints to specific clues:
21. What you can bring up: 2 words; one of the two is an article.
27. Part of Caesar’s boast: And what did he see?
31. Textile tool: well, you wouldn’t want your rug to be all bumpy, would you?
btw: Once you get 42-across, if you didn’t know it before, make a note of it; this is a very common xword clue
67. Bloody Mary stirrer: Picture a Bloody Mary: What do you see that you could stir it with? What a great drink: all your vegetable needs and sobriety-relief in a convenient package.
94. Opening for a dermatologist: Not a prefix, as you might think; think literally
80. Cartoony clubs: Well, old comic strips and early cartoons, mostly. The club here is the kind of thing you could use as a 1-across, not an organization.
82. “Uh, definitely.” How many times do I have to say it? Twice, apparently.
86. E-commerce site: Nope, not EBAY, but close
75. Captain’s last order: Do they really still go down with the boat? I don’t think so.
76. “Gay” city: Yeh, sometimes this word doesn’t tell you about sexual orientation.
83. “Brave New World” drug: There’s a muscle relaxant that’s called this also. Enough, time to let relax and let my pod take over…
Theme hints: Today’s puzzle’s theme works differently from most. This time, the title’s meaning becomes obvious mostly after finding the “trick” that holds the puzzle together, so it isn’t a big help in discovering what’s happening. The unusual shape of the puzzle is meaningful. The circles in the squares are, like the title, a nice touch, but unlikely to “unlock” the theme for most solvers. The other thing that’s unusual is that the long answers, like the title and the circles are more of an afterthought, a nice tie-in to the theme, but not crucial to solving the puzzle. Without giving the answer away completely, my suggestion is to look carefully at 106-Down and 103-Across. Once you figure out what’s going on there, the theme will reveal itself to you in a way that will be a big help in solving the rest of the puzzle.
A few specific non-theme hints:
6-Across Fixes keys: “Fixes” is a little misleading. Think piano.
18-Across Brother of Prometheus: While poor Prometheus was chained to his rock, his brother was certainly holding up his share of the bargain!
45-Across Bee product: Forget about insects or spelling contests, there’s another kind of bee bee-ing clued here.
109-Down Corner piece: Think game, not furniture
65-Down Tries: 4 words
67-Down Pressing needs?: Think gym, not laundry
69-Down Unlike eagles: Think sports; Is this the opposite of how you feel after you ate too much Xmas dinner?
73-Down Next-t0-last Beatles hit: They followed their own instructions (the title of this song) shortly thereafter.
Theme: Straight-forward, as long as you’re doing it on paper! You just have to do what the “instruction” tells you. It can be done without the drawing. Once you get enough crossing answers, you’ll get one of the long downs. Basically the drawing is something that’s pretty familiar this time of year. But it’s a word that can be used in many different contexts, and each long down answer is that clue in another totally different context. One more little hint: You may begin to think that 14-down is an individual’s name. It isn’t.
It’s late, my family’s here for Xmas, so I’m skipping the individual clues today. Sorry. Maybe I’ll catch up on them later in the week…
Another novel theme this week. I must admit I nearly completed the whole grid before “getting” what was going on. I found it worth the trouble. So this, for most solvers, one of those puzzles where you’ll fill in most of the non-theme answers and even solve some of the long answers with [see above] in them without necessarily getting the theme itself. Basic hint: Keep re-reading the title and put it together with what’s in the brackets. Second hint: Something funny is going on with several short answers that are not exactly theme answers (they aren’t the long down clues that say [see above] and the funny thing that’s happening is not a rebus.
Specific non-theme hints:
61-Down Parting word: Or: greeting word.
62-Down Taunting figure: Especially if you’re huge and not known for your intelligence.
121-Across Scale unit: Or: _______ of protection
90-Down Per: I wanted “A POP.” Close…same idea
95-Down Her name is Norwegian for “beautiful woman who leads to victory.”: Unfortunately, perhaps because she’s Norwegian, many complain that she doesn’t understand English very well!
67-Down NBA Hall-of-famer Thomas: He’s also quite famous for how his name isn’t quite spelled like the biblical character.
87-Across Angelicas and others: Well, HUSTONS doesn’t fit. This angelica has cures ones ills in a different way.
Interesting theme this week. Falls into the category that getting the idea of the theme early is a big help to solving the puzzle. Obviously something is happening with the circles. But it isn’t that you put the letters in the circle together in some way. No quite the opposite. The “Two” in two outs doesn’t just refer to the fact that there are two circles. It’s also that there are really two answers in one!
Specifici clue hints:
2. Down – Relative of S.O.S.: Thin kitchen, not the Titanic.
6. Down – Thick bunch?: Duh, who dey talkin’ about?
52. Down – With a will: Oh, I thought this meant being a male
74-Down – Elephant’s opposite, symbolically: No, not a mouse. Pay attention to that word “symbolically.” Some would say both these animals are going nowhere.
76-Down – URL component. No, not org or com or edu, but you’re literally very close to the answer
10-Across – Spring for a vacation: Well, the clue’s a little misleading. I guess this sort of place used to have actual springs (wet ones) but not so much nowadays.
72-Across – In a kooky manner: Think Marx brothers
62-Across- Mix in a tank: A noun, not a verb; Think car, not aquarium
122-Across – “Don’t be a spoilsport”: There’d be an apostrophe in the answer if you wrote it.
42- and 89- Across(es) Blue expanse(s) : A very likely pairing of answers. Think literally.
Theme hint: Usually the theme, once you get the hang of it, is a big help solving the puzzle. This time I had to go a long way before the theme became clear. The title, usually a big help to figure out the theme, didn’t help much. The first thing to be aware of is that 27-Across and 95-Across are both “key” clues, meaning that they give a hint at what’s going on with the theme. If you can get either of those by the down clue/answers that cross them, especially 95-Across, it can unlock the mystery of the theme. The other thing to notice is all the clues that are just dashes. Sometimes this just means “un-clued” (this was true a couple weeks ago) but that’s not really the case here. Meanwhile, solve away at the non-theme answers. Remember my hint that, if an answer doesn’t fit, it’s probably a rebus — well, forget that hint this time! One more thing, the normal rule that a long answer = theme answer also doesn’t hold true here.
79-Across – Ocean menace: Not an ORCA this time, though probably orcas and these guys get together at thanksgiving! Just be sure that you’re not the main dish!
109-Across – Not a reduction, abbr.: Think photograph
78-Across – Eponym of Warsaw’s airport: Know your Poles? Hum a few bars and the name of the person who gave his name to this airport might come to you.
65-Down – Go pfft, with “out”: Well, I wanted CRAP (out) but that didn’t work. Think car engine.
61-Down – It’s caught by a stick on a field: Well, not really the stick, but something that’s stuck to the stick
83-Down – Bishop’s place: Think Holy See, not chessboard
67-Across – Met one’s potential: Especially true if you happen to be a flower.
35-Down – Amphibious rodent: I had no idea there were varieties of these varmints that were amphibious. Ick, yuck, or, the answer to 19-Across (which could almost be a direction on a compass, btw)
Theme hint: Even without the title, the clues to the long answers tell us that we’re looking for some well known people’s names to show up in the puzzle. But don’t ignore the “Hits” part of the title. Once you get one, you’ll quickly see what holds the puzzle together. Keep in mind that the clue is literally true, but the answer will be something that’ll probably be pretty familiar. It helps to be a little older to do this puzzle, ’cause most of the theme references are from “back in the day.”
Specific clue hints:
53-Down. Kind of cat: There’s just no end to this one!
90-Across. Classical “You too?”: The guy saying this wasn’t just complaining about a minor problem.
71-Down. Botanist’s microscopic study: 2 words; not fancy scientific words
9-Down. Cuffed: Not as in handcuffs; bible-language, not ordinary speech
68-Down Egg choice: Think big
83-Across Barbecue needs: The clue should really have a “perhaps” at the end, ’cause a lot of folks bbq without these
54-Down Away for a while: e.g. from the army or from a job
15.Down Bread flavorer: Think of after the bread is cooked rather than before
39-Down Cause of yawning: Or of existential angst
75-Down Cutthroat: 3 equal length words