A Warm Welcome for This Week’s Solvers
In Wordplay, a crossword columnist helps you solve the day’s puzzle. Warning: Spoilers ahead.
By SAM CORBIN
In keeping with the flora of the holiday season, allow me to reissue our evergreen guidance to those wishing to dip their toes into the wide and wonderful world of New York Times Crosswords: Start with Monday puzzles. Do not pass Wednesday; do not collect a Thursday grid and stare wordlessly into it, your eyes glazing over as you decide to renounce puzzle solving entirely.
New solvers are in for an especially warm introduction to puzzling with today’s crossword by Luke K. Schreiber because as Mondays go, it’s an exemplar of the form.
“This was a cute and classic Monday theme,” said Christina Iverson, a puzzle editor for The Times. She added that Mr. Schreiber had participated in a series of seminars on crossword construction given to strong candidates for the Diverse Crossword Constructors Fellowship who weren’t ultimately chosen as fellows. Since then, she said, Mr. Schreiber has submitted several puzzles, a number of which have already been accepted.
Given that this puzzle is Mr. Schreiber’s New York Times debut, its theme might be considered a bit of a contradiction.
“I’m back!” reads his revealer clue, “. . . or a hint to 17-, 24-, 38- and 51- Across.”
Discerning how an entry hints at a theme nearly always relies on some kind of witty reinterpretation. The above clue solves to IT’S ME AGAIN. For the purposes of the theme, we treat this phrase not as a spoken declaration but as a statement about the repetition of the letters M-E throughout the grid’s themed entries. Thus, a “Union of two major companies” (17A) is revealed as a MEGA-MERGER; the “Wampanoag chief of the 1600s also known as King Philip” (24A) was METACOMET.
“Familiar spoken phrases can be especially fun to play with for revealers,” Ms. Iverson said. “I think a lot of people like them because they make a puzzle feel conversational and more personal.”
That Mr. Schreiber managed to span the full grid with a 15-letter themed entry is impressive. No less astounding, though, is the fact that this was the third such achievement with a MEAT THERMOMETER (38A) in our Crossword’s history. A rare medium well done, indeed.
15A. “Japanese bread crumbs” are called PANKO, which happens to be a direct compound translation of the words for bread and crumb (or flour, powder) in Japanese.
57A. There is no shortage of types of “Sweet liqueur often put in coffee” — Bailey’s, Kahlua and amaretto to name a few. Only ANISETTE fits into this puzzle’s boxes, however.
3D. In fairy-tale lore, “Jack traded the family cow” for a MAGIC BEAN or five, one of which sprouted to propel him to beanstalk fame.
8D. “Clay targets to be shot” are informally referred to as SKEETS, not to be confused with the running slang term for posts on BlueSky, a burgeoning social media app.
13D. The process of ore refinement is referred to as SMELTing. It shares its origins with the word “melt” but has been, rather fittingly, fused with an additional letter. (He who smelts it “gelts” it, like the Yiddish coin? Is that anything?)
31D. Deceptively simple, albeit somewhat redundant: This “Unit in a flight between stories” is a STAIR STEP.
A NOTE FROM THE CONSTRUCTOR
I’m currently a senior attending St. Peter’s Preparatory School in Jersey City, N.J. I plan on studying linguistics in college, and I’m ecstatic to make my debut in The New York Times. I’m excited to have featured METACOMET, whom I learned about in my A.P. U.S. history class, but this theme began with the phrase IT’S ME AGAIN. After deciding that IT’S ME AGAIN was both fun and had thematic potential, it was only a matter of finding a theme set with the ME-ME pattern.
Thank you to Christina Iverson and the editing team who helped me achieve a more Monday-friendly grid and clue set, and I’m especially happy they kept my etymological clue for 14-Across. After numerous rejections, I’m delighted for this one to run as my debut.
INSIDE THE TIMES
New York Times