wordplay, the crossword column
John Westwig, a software engineer with New York Times Games, encourages solvers to change careers.
THURSDAY PUZZLE — UPDATE: I have added a comment about 47D in the Tricky Clues section. It is indeed tricky, but there is really only one answer.
At some point in everyone’s career, it becomes necessary to look for new mountains to climb, to seek out new vistas, to trek across career-shaped mesas — or to simply do whatever geographically themed things are necessary to prevent yourself from going completely out of your mind. Or earn a better paycheck, whichever comes first.
This is John Westwig’s fourth puzzle for The New York Times, and he offers us six “help wanted” ads to give us a leg up in our job search. The thing is, they’re a bit confusing. We’re going to have to decipher them before we can find a new job.
27A. OYEZ is not a brand-name medication for an otic “hearing disorder.” The clue — “Hearing disorder remedy?” — refers to a hearing in a court of justice, and if things get out of order (cue Al Pacino in “And Justice for All”) the court officer is supposed to shout OYEZ, OYEZ to quiet everyone down.
30A. A SCHWA is an unstressed vowel, which means that it has been through a complete course of therapy and is feeling much better now, thank you for asking. I’m sorry. That’s wrong. It is the sound a vowel makes in an unaccented syllable, such as the “i” in “holiday,” which is pronounced /u/.
41A. This clue uses the “matching” rule: If a clue is in another language, the answer also has to be in that language. “Número de días en una semana” is asking us in Spanish for the number of days in a week. The answer — which also has to be in Spanish — is SIETE, which means “seven.”
43A. And you thought there was no slapstick in crossword puzzles. The “End of a trip?” is a THUD.
1D. Showing your character can mean that you are exhibiting what you’re really made of during a trying period. In this puzzle, however, if you have “Showed some character?” you have ACTED, because you are portraying someone else.
10D. If your car has been REPOed, it has been collected.
13D. Mortimer SNERD was one of two dummies operated by the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen (the actress Candice Bergen’s father). He was the dolt, compared to Charlie McCarthy, the other dummy.
Hilarious bit of trivia: Mr. Bergen made a lot of money as the host of his own radio show. Think about that for a moment.
25D. I can’t pass Danny KAYE and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” without playing at least one of the songs. My mother considered watching every one of his movies a large part of my upbringing.
34D. Who knew that the EYE had its own immune system? Not I, until today.
Speaking of EYEs, if parodies of the different medical specialties is your jam, check out the hilarious Dr. Glaucomflecken. He is played by Dr. Will Flanary, an ophthalmologist and comedian.
37D. “All-out military conflict” is TOTAL WAR, which has not been in the New York Times Crossword since 1956. It’s a heart-rending entry, considering the current war in Ukraine.
47D. Some solvers have brought up a good point. The clue “‘Neat’” may be interpreted as a synonym for a drink without ice. However, when a clue is in quotes, it is asking for another verbalization that means the same thing. So for those of you who like your beverages sans cooling cubes, you do you, but the answer is meant to be one word: NOICE.
56D. A “Burn notice” in espionage is an announcement by an intelligence agency that an agent has become unreliable. We only have a three-letter slot in this puzzle however, and this burn notice would be the indication of SPF on a bottle of sunblock.
The format of Mr. Westwig’s theme clues is “Profession X is wanted to … / Experience needed: Y phrase,” and we are being asked to predict what comes after the ellipsis. That prediction is based on the somewhat mystifying qualifications for the jobs, which, on the surface, have nothing to do with the position.
But Mr. Westwig would not leave you without at least a trail of bread crumbs to help you find your way to the answers. All of the answers take the phrase form “(WORD 1) A (WORD 2),” which is what comes after the clue’s ellipsis.
A familiar phrase that has to do with the “Experience needed” gets you halfway to the answer. But then you have to flip it to get the ISO, or “in search of” part of the answer.
For example, at 17A, the “Experience needed” is railroad conducting and the job opening is for an equestrian. The answer to the experience would be “ride a train,” but that is not going to help the poor equestrian. What if we flipped the phrase to TRAIN A RIDE? That would be something an equestrian could do, and it’s a much more sensible answer than operating a locomotive.
Let’s do one more. At 12D, the clue is “Museum curator is wanted to … / Experience needed: freestyle dancing.” If I were to break out into some freestyle dancing, I might be said to “Bust a move,” even as my children keeled over with laughter. But that has nothing to do with a museum curator, unless that person just happened to be a good dancer. If we flip that answer, we get MOVE A BUST, which is a perfectly cromulent thing for curators to do, as long they don’t drop it.
This was a neat find on Mr. Westwig’s part, and you can see more of the ideas he had for the theme in his notes below.
I’m so excited to be back in The Times! Since my last crossword, I’ve taken up a full-time gig with New York Times Games, where I definitely don’t sneak my own puzzles past the editorial team.
Special thanks to my sister, brother and parents for brainstorming wacky jobs with me. And no, Anna, I won’t be splitting my commission with you! Here’s a look behind the scenes:
Happy Great Resignation!
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