Mon Jan 7 NYT Crossword Hints & Tips

Basic tips (for specific hints, scroll down a bit)

1.  Monday’s through Thursday NYT crosswords are always “themed.”  Sunday’s puzzles are not only themed, but have a “title” that is itself a major hint to the theme. This means that several answers have something in common.  The usual answers that link to each other are the long answers running across the puzzle;  sometimes there are long down answers that also fit the theme.   Puzzles get harder through Thursday.  Sunday’s puzzle is bigger but as hard as an average Weds.

2.  Sometimes there’s one clue that gives you a hint about how the answers are related.  Scan all the clues right away at first to see if there’s a “special” clue that indicates that several other answers are related to it.

3.  Occasionally there are circles drawn inside the squares.  The theme is then usually tied to these circles, rather than the long answers.

4.  Occasionally a particular subset of clues are related, but not just or not all the long answers.  In this case, there’ll usually be an asterisk (*) next to certain clues to tell you they are related.

5.  Themes are almost always some kind of word play.  Occasionally the theme relates to the date of the puzzle, like the Abe Lincoln theme in the Jan. 1st puzzle this year.

Some general essential info:

1.  A question mark at the end of a clue means that the clue/answer combination is some kind of word play, not a straightforward definition.

2.  Quotes around a clue (unless it says something like, “according to so-and-so”) indicate that it’s a verbal expression so the answer isn’t always  a normal “word” like you could use in Scrabble.  e.g. “I’m cold” = BRR or BRRR.  Sometimes, though it just means something that’s said aloud and the answer, presumably is also said aloud.

3.  A common trick is to put a question mark or other indication to warn you that the answer is a prefix (e.g. “Beginning of a system?” = ECO) or the first letter of the word (e.g. “End of the world?” = DEE).

4.  A  _____ in the clue indicates the missing word is the answer.

5.  References to foreign places usually mean that the word is a simple word in the clue, but the answer is in a different language

6.  Don’t assume plural clues will have an S at the end, though early-in-the-week puzzles more often do.

7.  Many answers are two or even three words where you might expect just a single word.

8.  The NY Times is very careful about things like parts of speech, plural or singular, etc.  Your answer must be exactly the same in this way as the clue.  Though there are some exceptions, a slangy clue almost always means the answer is slang also.

Specific Hints

23-across The fourth letter of “cancel” but not the first is a variation on #3 in the list above.  In this case, you have to consider that not all letter sounds are created equally.  Some are harder than others!

This puzzle has tons of answers that fit hint #7.   I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many two word answers.  It’s almost a theme for the shorter answers.

There are two examples of quotes around clues in this puzzle.  In this case, all the words in the answer are normal words; they’re just alternate expressions like the ones in quotes.   I’d say 23-down (Meh) should probably have quotes around it.

Black sheep’s cry:  What, white sheep always only bleat once?


Theme Hint:  All but two of the long answers is 2 words.  All the long answers have one word in them that shares something obviously in common with one word in the other long answers.  32-down and 10-down, however, do not fit the theme.  Critics of puzzles (most notably Rex Parker) will often point this out as a flaw in the puzzle-maker’s construction when this happens.