PUZZLE MONDAY – Welcome and congratulations to today’s builder, Garrett Chalfin, on his New York Times Crossword debut as a rising high school student. Mr Chalfin joins the growing ranks of builders who made their debut as teenagers, becoming the 59th to do so.
I don’t know if it was just me or if the clue was a bit trickier than your typical Monday puzzle. My theory is that it might be a bit of both – the clues seemed a little harder than normal, but I also solved this puzzle at night, which is unusual for me. I’m really into the morning and my resolution routine usually involves coffee. Something about tackling the puzzle at a different time of day seemed to really put me off.
Solvers, have you ever noticed a difference in your crossword abilities when you change your routine or solve at a different time of day? Or should I just admit that I was deceived by Mr. Chalfin’s clever clues? Let’s take a look at some of the toughest of the bunch.
16A. “What ___erican ___press misses” is a pretty tricky way to clue AMEX! The letters AM are missing in “___erican” and EX are missing in “___press” in the company name AMerican EXpress, often colloquially referred to as AMEX.
23A. I really paused and thought a lot about the “What baseball players, striking employees, and pet dogs are doing” clue, which probably also extended my resolution time today . I got stuck on the word “strike” (which couldn’t be true – there are too many letters, the word “strike” is in the clue and dogs don’t really do that). I ended up moving on until I had a few more crosses. I did a bit of a face-palm when I realized that all of these groups WALK (bases or away from a trading table or on a leash).
39A. A question mark indicates any pun. Here, “The difference between Mara and Maria?” is AN I, as in, the letter.
62A. “Compos mentis” is a Latin legal term for “sane,” or SANE.
8D. When a clue is quoted, the solver must identify another conversational sentence equivalent to that of the clue. This one is a bit spicy! The ending phrase “Why, you little one…” could be replaced by the equally incomplete “SON OF A…”.
41D. A portmanteau is a word created when you mix two other words. The clue “Word that would seem to be a portmanteau of ‘travelling groups’, but which is not” refers to TROUPES, which are traveling groups of artists, although the word is derived from French.
48D. I always love being reminded of the “feline meme from around 2006”, which is a LOLCAT.
49D. “‘The Shining’ plot device that became meaningful when read backwards” is RED RUM, which spells “murder” when read backwards. The scene from “The Shining” in which this plot device features (and really, this whole movie) still gives me chills almost 16 years after I first saw it.
Looking back, I think perhaps the thing that slowed me down (other than the time of day) was the longer duration of some of these indices (23A, 41D, and 49D).
The theme of this puzzle is revealed in the entry covering the grid at 59A with the clue “Classic Game Show…or a clue of 17-, 26-, and 47-Across”. This game show, of course, is THE PRICE IS RIGHT. As the name of the show suggests, the other three themed 15-letter entries all contain words synonymous with PRIZE on their RIGHT side.
The first theme entry, with the clue “Input for a barista’s grinder”, initially tripped me up. I confidently grabbed WHOLE COFFEE BEAN (not really a thing people say) instead of WHOLE BEAN COFCOSTS (the way people actually talk). I don’t know why my brain shorted out on this one, but I figured it out eventually. The key here, of course, is that Whole Bean COFCOSTS ends with the word FEE, which is another word for PRICE.
The second theme entry was easier for me – “Can you say more about this?” is something i say all the time at my day job, where I frequently lead small group discussions in the classroom, so CARE TO ELABOASSESS came naturally to me. And like the first theme entry, this one ends with (or has on its RIGHT side) another synonym for PRICE, the word RATE.
Finally we have the entry GUERILLA WARRATE (“Tactics Employed by the Vietcong”), which, while not exactly the kind of light and fluffy topic one would expect from a Monday puzzle, certainly ends with another synonym for PRIZE.
It is a simple and straightforward theme that is executed with impressive skill for a beginner builder. It’s not easy to fill four 15-letter theme entries while keeping crossword glue to a minimum. And the clues were top notch. Congratulations to Mr. Chalfin on such a promising start – we look forward to your next appearance!
I am a rising high school student at Riverdale Country School in New York. It’s more than an honor to have today’s puzzle!
I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure I thought of this theme on a Sunday night as I sat in the red chair in my living room trying not to do my homework – although, admittedly, that’s how I found most of my puzzles. I sent this grid with a bit of trepidation – as I know a wordsearch theme is a hard sell these days – and was so pleasantly surprised when the team told me that the one -this was going to be a yes.
I want to thank the writing team, and especially Wyna Liu and Tracy Bennett, for giving me kind and thoughtful feedback on my puzzles. Above all, thanks to Andrew Kingsley for being the best cruciate partner in crime (and English teacher!) in potentially the history of cruciate partners in crime. Collaborating with him made me the crossword builder that I am today, and for that I will be eternally grateful to him. Andrew and I have some cool stuff in the works, so hopefully you’ll see us under the bright lights soon.
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For tips on how to get started, read our “How to Make a Crossword Puzzle” series.