THURSDAY PUZZLE – Sure, visual arts are cool, but have you ever stopped to admire what can be done with a creative arrangement of words?
I’m not just talking about good writing, although putting your words in the right order is certainly an important part of it. I’m actually talking about arranging the words in such a way that they communicate something that is not immediately visible.
Michael Lieberman returns with his first Thursday crossword for The New York Times, and I have to say I really enjoyed this one. The theme type has a name that will be familiar to weekend solvers, but it’s presented differently here, and that’s refreshing.
14A. Don’t overthink this. “Helping when things are too hot to handle” isn’t about getting in trouble, it’s about not getting burned. The answer is POTHOLDER.
23A. PARKOUR, an athletic and creative way to get from point to point, debuts in the New York Times Crossword. If you’ve never seen it, it’s amazing, unless you’re Michael Scott and his “The Office” comrades, in which case it’s hilarious:
27A. Ask yourself if the word “saw” (“Things you saw while you slept?”) Has more than one meaning. Yes of course. You can saw LOGS, which is another term for snoring.
33A. The “noodle container?” Is not a take-out box, but your SKULL. “Noodle” is a nickname for the brain.
52A. Maybe you thought of “car” as a way to “get away from a shore,” but the shore in this clue is a river bank. The answer is OAR.
2D. My first thought for “Accompanying Knights” was Sancho Panza, because I am a fan of “Don Quixote”, but it was far from being the case. This clue refers to a game of chess, and the answer is ROOKS.
7D. Ha! A smart one. One place to get paper with plastic is an ATM, if the paper is change and the plastic is your ATM card.
34D. Maybe difficult for international solvers. If you live outside of the United States, do you know KNOTT’s Berry Farm?
Theme of the day
If you’ve been solving Wednesday and Thursday crosswords for a while, you’ve probably been familiar with the rebuses. The most common crossword puzzle is one where several letters are compressed into a single square.
But rebus puzzles are more than just a crossword puzzle, and you probably encountered them as a kid in school, or in children’s puzzle magazines, if you were a nerd like me. The rebuses that Mr. Lieberman offers us in his puzzle are of the type where solvers have to decipher a sentence based on a clever arrangement of words or images.
Take the FAREDCE rebus, for example. At first glance, that seems like an absurd word. But on closer inspection you can read it as FAREDCE, or “red in the face”.
In Mr. Lieberman’s puzzle, the full sentences all include the word UNDER, and the entries – all Downs, to help solvers visualize the answers – place the first word of the answer under the rest of the sentence.
So in 3D, the response to the clue “No idea about current trends” is written as A ROCK LIVING, but the corrected sentence is really LIVING (UNDER) A ROCK.
Likewise, at 24D, the response to the clue “Make an affidavit in court” is written as OATH TO WITNESS or TO WITNESS (UNDER) OATH.
Hope you enjoyed this one. This was my first attempt at doing something delicate, and I liked this particular idea because it allowed for colorful thematic sentences that would be too long for a 15×15 grid if presented in a straightforward fashion.
The major constraint was that I didn’t want to use more than one sentence in which UNDER was followed by THE, and there are a whole bunch of them and not many more. I’m sure I missed a few, but I only found four non-THE options that I really liked. (COURAGE UNDER THE FIRE was the fourth, but I didn’t use it because it’s basically the opposite of CRACK UNDER PRESSURE.)
From there, symmetry dictated me to use DRINK UNDER THE TABLE instead of WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE, FLY UNDER RADAR, SWEEP UNDER THE CARPET, THROW UNDER THE BUS or HOT UNDER THE NECKLACE. DESIRE UNDER ELMS could have worked, but I think this type of theme works better without proper names.
Regarding 17-Across, I have to inform you that the classic BMX of 1986 (?) “Rad” – my favorite honest to god movie of all time – is now streaming on Amazon PRIME VIDEO.
Want to submit crosswords to the New York Times?
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For tips on how to get started, read our “How to Create a Crossword Puzzle” series.
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