Hints and Tips on Puzzles for the New York Times Archives

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.

NYT Sunday Crossword Hints – Nov. 17, 2013 – Vowel Play

drJ : November 17, 2013 10:22 am : NYT

Well, the theme isn’t particularly challenging this week and is helpful once you get it.  As usual, do a reasonable amount of filling in non-theme answers and the theme will begin to come into focus.   The title is quite literally what’s going on.  The order of the theme-based letters does vary from theme answer to theme answer, but otherwise it’s pretty straightforward.  Not particularly awesome, but, oh well.

38-Down, though long, is not connected to the theme (and, by the way, it really should have a question mark at the end to show it’s a bit of word play).

Specific hints:

25-Across – Spin, of a sort:  Think politics, not orbs

33-Across – Having failed to ante up, say:  3 words

34-Across – Italian tourist destination in the Mediterranean:  not so popular with a particular Frenchman

46-Across – Medium for body art:  One less letter than a TATTOO and a lot easier to remove!

63-Across – Post production locale?:  Note the question mark.   Remember that the first work of a clue could be a word that’s capitalized even when it isn’t the first word of a clue

58-Doan – Got back to, in a way:  There’d be an apostrophe in this if you could put one in a crossword

107-Across – American alternative:  Don’t think airline or country

94-Down – History or biography:  or film noir

8-Down – ” …___ quit” : Only 3 letters, but 2 words

76-Down – “Almighty” item, abbr.:  Well, it ain’t gonna be so almighty very long if our government keeps playing brinkmanship!





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NYT Sunday Crossword Hints – Nov 10 2013 – Bye-Lines

drJ : November 9, 2013 9:51 pm : NYT

Sometimes you don’t get the theme at all ’til after you’ve solved the whole puzzle…and sometimes you need to get the theme early to have much of chance with the puzzle.   This is one where the sooner you get the idea of the theme, the better off you are.  So, let’s look at the theme:  “Bye-Lines”  Keep that in mind and do as much of the crossing down answers (all the theme answers are across this time; not always the case) as you can.  Do you see any familiar words appearing that are, in some way related to the clue for the long answer?   They are all related in the same way and this is not a normal clue/answer relationship.   No question mark at the end, so not puns or fancy word play.  Something very specific is going on here.  The only one that’s “tricky” is 64-Across (Porky Pig), and it’s just like he says it.


Some specific hints:

1-Down Downhill run:  do think skiing, though not necessarily through those flags they set up to see if they can kill the skiers.

1-Across Former Belgian national airline:  The name sounds like a famous Audrey Hepburn role

38-Down Jesse and Leo of TV sitcoms:  Sam’s one of these, too.

43-Down Onward:  Or Sally ______.

76-Down Lace’s End:  A common crossword puzzle word that no one ever uses.   Could it be a very small Texan steer?

106-Down Preceder of “di” or “da” in a Beatles song:  You might think there should be one more “o” in this answer

32-Across Base, e.g. & 57-Down Base:  Usually matching clues like this involve completely different meanings of the same word, but not this time.

9-Down Nickname for Huntington Beach, Calif.   A likely name for a beach in California; 2 words.


Enjoy my hints?  Check out my blook (blog + book = blook).








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NYT Sunday Crossword Hints – Nov. 3, 2013 — Stolen Produce

drJ : November 2, 2013 11:03 pm : NYT

As I’ve mentioned in this NYT Sunday crossword blog previously, Sunday puzzle themes are either kind of an afterthought, marginally relevant to solving the puzzle, or, alternatively, very helpful, once you get the idea of theme, to solving the grid.  This one falls mostly in the latter category:  Once you get the idea of the theme, it’s a big help to solving the puzzle.

The title is usually helpful.  “Stolen produce” suggests that something might be being deleted from an answer.   And several of the long clues refer to another clue as needed to understand them.   The “other clue”  (e.g. 29-across for 23-across and 66-across for 60-across) seems to have a connection to produce.  So my suggestion is to try to get one of the “other clues” and its related long clue once you’ve got a few letters filled in on the long clue.  This is a situation where you might think there’s a rebus (multiple letters in a single box) because correct answers don’t fit the space allowed, but there’s something a bit trickier going on here.

Some hints to specific clues:

20-Across: Actress Chaplin in “Game of Thrones”:  older solvers know this name as the first name of Charlie Chaplin’s wife

34-Across Eighty-sixes:  Think Latin for a farm animal

51-Across On the q.t.:  2 words.  Psst, don’t tell anybody!

1-Down Car with a lightening bolt in its logo:  Think of a small foreign car that isn’t a Yugo

2-Down The Tide:  No, not the soap, another nickname for a football team

6-Down Poe poem:  Think ode and the battle of Troy

30-Down They’re way out:  Think house hunting, but don’t go too far out

82-Down Enthusiastic reply:  3 words

90-Down “Holiday Inn” star:  No, not the motel.  Think dancing feet (and toes)



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NYT Sunday Crossword Hints Oct. 27, 2013 Who’s Left?

drJ : October 26, 2013 11:36 pm : NYT

Different approach to hint blog this week.  Writing as I solve.   Still just hints, not answers.   This week’s puzzle is by Emmett Quigley, one of my personal favorite puzzle creators.   So it’s likely to be inventive and interesting to solve.   Notice the grid itself.   Whenever you see circles in a grid consider whether they are in a pattern or form a shape.   So what we have here is horizontal (across) circles of varying length.

Initial questions to ask oneself:  What’s the title of the puzzle:  “Who’s Left?”   This raises several possibilities about how the circles come into to play.  We’ll keep keep coming back to this as we solve the non-theme clues to begin to fill in the grid.

Second immediate question:  Is there a specific clue that refers to the circles or some other aspect of the puzzle.  I didn’t see any in a quick scan of the clues, but I might have missed something.

Now onto solving as many of the clues as I can.   In across lite, the tab key it easy to move through all the acrosses and all the down, so that’s my usual approach.

I often skip the long answers entirely the first time through, but I don’t think that’s a good strategy here.   My first look is that it might be possible to get one of these without many of the letters.

Some of the long answers begin to come into focus.  Hmmm.   The role of the circles still isn’t clear to me.

Being a Quigley puzzle not many of the answers are obvious “gimmes” or crossword-ese (the words, places, animals, etc. that only seem to exist in crossword puzzle land.

I got quite a bit of this puzzle filled without being completely sure about anything.

But a couple specific hints as I go along

64-Across Vodka with a Chocolate Razberi flavor:  It’s really what this brand is nicknamed rather than the word on the label that very few Americans (including me) could spell correctly without looking at a bottle of it.

53-Down Cry from a balcony: No, not O,ROMEO.  2 words, though.

50-Across Icon on Amazon:   this clue should have an e.g. on the end.  Amazon is one of a zillion sites with this icon.

123-Across Dishwasher, at times:  Well, I certainly hope so!

108-Down Raspberry:  No, not the fruit kind of raspberry

71-Acrosss Great leveler:  This clue could have a question mark at the end, though it is literally accurate

39-Across Dotty? :  Keep the question mark in mind.   Don’t think “crazy,” though “drunk” could be the clue

By the way, 2-Down is nothing like CB RADIO.  It’s something I’d never heard, I’ll tell you that.


Meanwhile, the theme?   Well, it’s kind of a meta-puzzle:  Meaning you can solve the whole puzzle without ever figuring out what’s going on with the circles.  If that’s happening to you, take another look at the title at what it might refer to.



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Sunday NYT Crossword Hints – Oct. 20 Country Road

drJ : October 19, 2013 11:59 pm : NYT

Interesting theme this Sunday.   This is an unusual theme in that most people (including me) will need to solve most of the clues that cross the long answers before getting the long answers.   Note first that the long acrosses (plus the combo of 122-Across and 124-Across) are all connected to each other.   Pay particular attention to the question mark at the end of 148-Across.   That cues you into the fact that there’s some word play in the answer.   Connection and direction are the common elements.   The fact that all the long answers are across answers isn’t irrelevant.

10 Specific hints (all down since theme answers are all across)

1.  3-Down: Hedgehop, e.g.   Think crop duster.

2.  9-Down: Tulip festival city:  pssst:  Holland ain’t the only place that has tulips

3.  21-Down:  Intentionally disregarding:  Or just having turned one’s hearing aid off

4.  38-Down:  In stitches:  Think literally

5.  39-Down:  Caesar and others:  Neither the emperor nor the salad.  There’s another Caesar?  There was.

6.  67-Down:  “So-so”:  The quotes around the question tells you that the answer is likely a sound rather than a real word.

7.  74-Down:  1980’s – 90’s German leader Helmut:  Who later launched a chain of big box stores?

8.  90-Down:  Stun with a gun:  The answer is a noun, not a verb

9.  107-Down: London greeting:  Think My Fair Lady

10.  133-Down: Frosty’s eyes:  Was he on his way to Newcastle?


Enjoyed the hints?  Check out my Reflections.


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NYT Crossword Hints – Sun, Oct 13, 2013 – Taken to Task

drJ : October 13, 2013 9:01 am : NYT

A little late today, sorry fans.  Some things took priority over puzzles last night and today, but here we go.

Theme:  Well, it’s the circled letters that really holds a pretty loose theme together this time.   Note that there are question marks following clues to the long answers, so no puns or word play here, just a series of answers loosely related to the theme identified by the the circles.   Don’t take it too seriously, it’s really just a myth!

10 specific clues:

1.  1-Across:  Treats, a a bow:  Think violin

2.  2-Across:  Org. for lab safety:  No, not a chem lab.   This lab is often black.

3.  28-Across Metaphor for obsolesce:  The clue’s misleading.   More a metaphor for what happens to you if you get in the way of human expansionism.

4.  104-Down: H H H H.  There being four of them doesn’t matter.  Think Greek.

5.  62-Down: It’s a challenge:  Three words

6.  74-Down: Little confabs:  You’ll have to put your heads together to solve this one

7.  95-Down Sweater’s line:  Note the question mark (means it’s a bit of joke).   Two words.  Doesn’t have anything to do with either gyms or clothes.

8.  93-Down Actually:  Two words, two Latin words

9.  59-Down Helen Keller…:  It could do what she couldn’t

10.  80-Down Main line:  This one could have a question mark after it;  Think body, not transportation.


Enjoyed my clues, check out my blook!



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NYT Crossword Hints (Thurs. Oct 3, 2013): The art of the rebus

drJ : October 3, 2013 9:16 pm : NYT

Thursday puzzles are what makes solving NYT Crossword puzzles worth the bother.   Few unfathomable clue/answer combinations and an interesting twist.   Sometimes their just puns that just, well, ok, but it does help to understand the possible things that happen to puzzle on Thursday.  What’s called a rebus in crossword-puzzle-land can be simply described as when you put more than one letter into a single square.

A “rebus” is, well, this is one of the more fun possibilities for a Thursday NYT puzzle theme.   Today’s puzzle makes wonderful use of a rebus.

As a solver, the first thing that makes you wonder if there’s a rebus in the puzzle, is simply the fact that it’s NYT Thursday’s puzzle.  Rarely they’ll pop up on a Wednesday and often they come up on Sundays, but they’re real home is Thursday.

If you’re lucky you’ll run into an answer you’re confident of, but it doesn’t fit unless you put more than one letter in the square.

I remember a puzzle from years ago that worked out if you put a suit of cards in each corner.   So each corner had a heart or spade or club or diamond in it.

Today’s puzzle is a real gem of this species.   My hint:  Sometimes a pair of letters, when said aloud, is more than a pair of letters…and sometimes a pair of letters is simply that pair of letters.   Sometimes the same pair of letters can be both.


Check out my “thoughts













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NYT Crossword Hints, not Answers Sun Sept 29

drJ : September 28, 2013 10:13 pm : NYT

Theme:  Long clues all end in question marks, so they’ve got to be puns.   New Englanders (note the title of the puzzle) are renowned for what?  No, not lobsters, you can’t overhear them without getting your eayah bit off.

10 specific clues

1.  32-Down Clutch,e.g.:  Think accessory, not stick shift

2. 4-Down Draw:  Think verb, not noun

3.  60-Down Green spot:  Not Eden, but it would definitely look like paradise to those who find it

4.  69-Down “True”:  only 6 letters, but three words

5.  68-Across Delicate first-date topic:  Yeh, this could easily make one’s first date one’s last date, especially nowadays

6.  83-Across Ball game:  The balls are the definitely the game

7.  119-Across Medicine for a narcoleptic:   A “paradoxical” drug often given to the obstreperous

8. 78-Down Sight at many a barbecue:  Do these things really do any good?

9.  10-Down Group in a 1955 merger:  Not the kind of merger that pleases Wall St.

10.  114-Down They may improve in crunch time:  This one could have a question mark after it.  We’re not talking about deadlines here.

Enjoyed my clues?  Check out my essay on amateur creativity.




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NYT Sunday Crossword Hints (not answers) Sept 22 Letterboxes

drJ : September 22, 2013 12:14 am : NYT

Had t0 hold off until now (6PM Tues.) since it’s a contest, but now all can be revealed, or at least enough hints to make doing the puzzle more fun and less frustration.

So we start with the theme.   70-Across is the key, but of course it’ll take a lot of solving before you can tell what it says.   (If you’re doing the puzzle now, after the contest, you won’t see the warning that the puzzle has dark likes making a set of boxes within the puzzle grid.  You don’t need these to solve the puzzle itself, but the extra “meta-puzzle” — a three word phrase that’s found in these boxes — you’ll need to go back to the paper version or get it electronically by going to Wordplay on the Times site and then printing the PDF from there.  A fair amount of trouble, but ultimately a pretty cool solution once you figure it out.)   Anyway, the long answers (e.g. 23 across) are theme answers and make extra sense once you get 70-Across.

As far as the “contest” theme, it isn’t obvious even once you do solve 70-Across.  I thought the answer to 70-across was suggesting paying attention to the unfilled grid.  That isn’t it.  The grid that matters is the completed grid.  There’s something particular about the answers inside the boxes that reveals the letter each box “represents.”  That’s about as much of a hint I can give without giving it away completely.

10 Specific hints:

1.  5-Across Classic Sci-fi film, etc.:  One of those plurals that doesn’t end in “S.”

2.  13-Across “La La” lean-in in Al Green  hit:  Well of course it isn’t TRA.  Remember that other crossword favorite rock ‘n roll group _____ Na Na.

3.  21-Across What X-O-X lacks?:  Think of the name of the game.

4.  46-Acros 1960’s to 1970’s show with Ephram Zimbalist, Jr.:  2 words, one with lots of dots

5.  92-Across Like video games, nowadays:  Like TV shows, too

6.  42-Down Pirate’s chest:  They gotta have some place to put the loot!

7.  95-Down 1970 John Wayne western:  2 words.

8.  81-Down Wrinkly dog:  Sounds like those guys who help you make it up Mount Everest mixed up with a felt-tipped heavy marker

9.  50-Down Country with two oryxes:  I thought oryxes only existed in crossword puzzles, but this one lives in a flag.  Think Africa.

10.  67-Across Pitchfork wielding groups:  My neighbors?  No.  Think Frankenstein.


and check out my blog of “deep thoughts






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NYT Crossword Hints Not Answers – Sun Sept 15

drJ : September 14, 2013 8:34 pm : NYT

Theme:  This is one where it really pays to get the theme relatively early in your solving.  Once you see the “trick” (the particular wordplay that goes on), you’ll be able to use it in all the long answers.  This puzzle follows the most common Sunday NYT crossword pattern for the theme (long answer) clues:  The “?” at the end tells us it’s word play, a simple pun.  The phrase, when answer, when said aloud, is a common phrase while the literal answer (the exact words you put into the grid) fits the clue.   One more hint:  The literal answer is 3 words, while the more common phrase is just two words.

10 Specific hints:

1.  76-Down “___ I hear” :  2 words

2.  84-Down One side in the War of the Worlds:  The opposite side of the answer to 8-Across

3.  8-Down Irish city near Killarney:  Sounds like something you’d take to get from one part of town to another

4. 98-Down Jacket part:  An unseen part, at least when you’re wearing the jacket

5. 53-Down Allergic reaction:  Or, “Blessing elicitor”

6.  62-Down One’s making intros:  More common to see this as a six letter word when it’s plural

7.  92-Down “just Arrived”  — No pun/word play here, but there’s a touch of theme in this answer

8.  71-Across Immortal PGA Nickname:  It’s a first name.

9.  91-Across “Baby” singer’s nickname:  Ask your pre-teen daughter, she’ll know

10.  80-Across Poetic preposition:  Thing above, not before


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