wordplay, the crossword column
Carl Larson just has a few details to resolve.
Send any friend a story
As a subscriber, you have 10 gift articles to give each month. Anyone can read what you share.
MONDAY PUZZLE — It’s Monday! It’s April! Spring is in the air and flowers are blooming (at least it is and they are where I am), and I am feeling particularly ebullient today! This puzzle, from the constructor Carl Larson, has served only to increase my feeling that today is going to be a good day, and I hope you, dear Wordplay reader, are feeling the same.
Inspired by the clue at 61A (“Wildly absurd, colloquially”), I want to take a brief look at one of my very favorite clue types: the colloquial clue. I’ll be spoiling two of today’s clues here, so, if you normally read this section of the column before you solve, I’d advise heading back to the puzzle now, just to be safe.
*Looks around* — Are they gone? Those odd ducks who read part of the column before they solve? Whew! Alrighty then, let’s take a look at the two colloquial clues in this puzzle:
First, at 37D, we have the clue “I don’t think so,” with the entire clue in quotation marks. Colloquial clues like this one are phrases that one might say aloud, and the entry will be an equivalent phrase that is also conversational. In this case, “I don’t think so” means the same thing as the entry NAH in informal speech, as in a conversation where “Are you going to the party this weekend?” might be answered with NAH. This conversation might even continue at 61A, with the first speaker saying “Gotcha,” which is the clue for I SEE.
Because this is a Monday puzzle, which is typically the easiest of the week, neither of these colloquial clues is particularly challenging. On Fridays and Saturdays, however, they can be downright hilarious, asking the solver to identify equivalent phrases for more complicated expressions. See, for instance, this past Saturday’s first Across clue “Wish I could live like that …” for the entry MUST BE NICE.
There’s nothing too challenging in this Monday puzzle, probably because its theme is a touch trickier than on a typical Monday, so the clues may be a tad easier to balance it out. That said, here are a couple that new solvers (and especially young solvers) might not know:
38A. “Legacy I.S.P.” is another way of saying “old internet service provider.” The initialism I.S.P. is a hint that the answer will also be shortened, so the answer here is AOL, originally short for America Online.
2D. One word seen far more often in crosswords than the real world is ABACI (“Early calculators”), probably because of the high number of vowels relative to consonants. ABACI is the plural of abacus, the counting device that uses the movement of beads on wires or strings to add and subtract.
40D. I’m not much of a photographer (although you can see my first New York Times photo credit in this piece about the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament!), so camera types tend to be outside my wheelhouse. That said, new solvers will want to commit the letters SLR (“35mm camera type, in brief”) to memory, because they show up a lot. Enough, in fact, for the Gameplay team to have a whole article about them!
This puzzle features five theme entries with sets of circles on either end and the revealer LOOSE ENDS (“Unresolved details … and a hint to this puzzle’s circled letters”). The words spelled by the circled letters at the ENDS of each theme entry are all things that could follow the word “LOOSE” in common phrases.
For instance, the first theme entry is TAKE A WALK (17A, “Go strolling”). In circles on either end of the entry are the letters T-A-L-K, which follow the word “loose” in the expression “loose talk,” meaning careless or reckless speech. The second theme entry is BANDSHELL (25A, “Outdoor concert stage”), where the circled letters (B-A-L-L) could follow “loose” in the phrase “loose ball,” a term that describes a football after a fumble.
The other three theme entries work the same way (and one, LIQUICAPS, works in almost precisely the same way as the first theme entry, because “loose lips” and “loose talk” mean approximately the same thing). Despite this minor inelegance, however, the theme set is fun — LIQUICAPS and, perhaps more surprisingly, TOLLBOOTH are both making their first appearance in the New York Times Crossword.
Read on for the inside scoop on this puzzle’s creation, which features a fabulous construction geek-out:
What I enjoyed most about constructing this puzzle was creating a grid with six theme answers, which I had not tried before.
When I was searching for theme answers, there were not too many options fitting the pattern for TA*LK and CHA*NGE. Since TAKE A WALK and CHALLENGE were both nine letters, the same as LOOSE ENDS, I thought about having all theme answers be nine letters long. Five nine-letter theme answers seemed like too little theme content for the puzzle, so I wondered if I could squeeze in six.
I was able to come up with a workable grid by closing off the middle and finding an arrangement of themers where I could find a couple of words that crossed through three of the theme answers. The resulting grid, to my delight, still provided space for six Down answers that were seven letters or longer. The grid worked out so well that I’ve used variations of it when constructing other puzzles.
The New York Times Crossword has an open submission system, and you can submit your puzzles online.
For tips on how to get started, read our series, “How to Make a Crossword Puzzle.”
Almost finished solving but need a bit more help? We’ve got you covered.
Warning: There be spoilers ahead, but subscribers can take a peek at the answer key.
Trying to get back to the puzzle page? Right here.