NYT Crossword Answers for July 5, 2024

Go to: Difficult clues

FRIDAY PUZZLE — If you’re not a builder, you probably sit down to solve your crossword puzzles without thinking much about how difficult it is to fill in a grid.

That’s okay. Analyzing the puzzle and its construction is usually not part of the solution agenda. But it is something that constructors look at when they encounter puzzles from others.

Without getting too deep into the details, I’d like to point out a few things about today’s crossword puzzle, created by Trent H. Evans, that I think are worth a second look. Follow me past the jump below for a brief discussion. If you don’t want spoilers, skip to the Tricky Clues section.

What I like most about themeless crosswords is that there is, well, no theme. I do like a good theme, though. It’s just that putting the theme into the grid means putting a bunch of black squares around it, breaking up the spaces where long, exciting entries could go.

Most puzzlers appreciate the extra space that themeless grids provide. There are a few ways they make their puzzles shine:

  • They edit their word lists by adding fresh and unique words and phrases to excite their audience. Junky items in the lists are judiciously pruned.

  • They try to find at least one top-of-the-line seed entry to be the first filler in the puzzle (and the seed often anchors the grid). I believe Mr. Evans’ seed was probably 35A, A LITTLE HELP HERE, which is also making a debut. That’s an entry that will put a smile on most people’s faces, because it’s a common and unusual thing to see in a crossword.

  • They build lively stacks. A stack is a series of crosswords that are either on top of each other (such as 1A, 15A, and 17A) or next to each other (such as 12D and 13D). If all the entries sparkle, that usually ensures that at least that quadrant of the grid will be fun for the solver. A stack with winners like TRUST FALL, SOCIAL CUE, and ALL ABOARD from the Northwest will entice solvers to keep going. The trick—and this is partly how I judge whether a stack is successful—is to make sure that the crosses in the stack are also interesting and not obscure words or abbreviations. In my opinion, all nine entries that cross 1A, 15A, and 17A are good.

So after you’ve solved it, go back and take a closer look at Mr. Evans’ work. If you’re into crossword grids and want to become a themeless constructor, this is a good example of the kind of submissions accepted by the puzzle editors. It’s more work than you might think, but the end result is worth it.

1A. I don’t remember exactly when the TRUST FALL became an example of the kind of business camaraderie you need to have with your team, but it was a very popular one [Activity at a company retreat]. It worked like this: you had to fall backwards into the arms of a coworker with no guarantee that that person would be able to catch you. If your coworker succeeded, voila, there was trust between the two of you, until the day you discovered that it was that particular coworker who had stolen your lunch from the office fridge.

17A. This [Training announcement?] is not a list of exercises to work through. In this case the training involves locomotives and the announcement is ALL ABOARD.

25A. The word ASPIC, indicated as [Savory jelly]has appeared 148 times in the New York Times Crossword, and although I wasn’t present for every one, each occurrence left me feeling vaguely nauseous. Who wants to eat some savory jelly?

That all changed after I had my first Chinese soup dumpling, or xiao long bao. These delectable morsels of deliciousness are filled with a soul-warming broth and a meatball. The dumplings are eaten by biting a small hole in the wrapper without risking third-degree burns (they’re served very hot), then sipping the broth until you reach the meaty center. You can add a drop of black vinegar to make the broth even more delicious, while you’re left wondering how on earth they got the soup in there. I later discovered that this culinary miracle is accomplished by adding gelatin and refrigerating the broth until it solidifies, essentially turning it into aspic. Spoonfuls of the gel are placed into dumpling wrappers along with the meatballs, and each dumpling is closed by making a series of deft folds in the wrapper. When ready to serve, the dumplings are steamed, which causes the broth to become liquid again.

44A. [Burn letters?] is not an exhortation to set fire to your correspondence. It refers to the letters SPF, which you would find on a bottle of sunscreen.

45A. I had to look this up. I knew that [What 0! equals] was a mathematical hint, but I’m no expert on factorials. I got the answer ONE because it fit, but my curiosity got the better of me. Here’s a much better explanation than I could give you of why 0! is ONE.

55A.A [Hard fall?] sounds painful, but the hail in this puzzle is a HAIL STORM, because hailstones are hard when they fall.

2D. This [Billing matter] is not about money, it’s about where your name is on a theater marquee. The answer is ROL.

5D. If you were wondering “Tom who?” when you read the clue [Tom sporting a striped coat, say]it is not about a person named Tom. This clue is about a tomcat; one with stripes is a TABBY CAT.

26D. There are many places and kiosks in New York City that sell freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices. [Green juice?] usually contains leafy greens such as spinach. In Mr. Evans’ puzzle, however, the juice is power, and the answer is SOLAR ENERGY, which is a form of green energy.

56D. The indication [Air force?] does not refer to the military. The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, is also a force, and it makes sure people are safe when they travel by air.

This is my 11th puzzle for The New York Times. I’ve rarely experienced such a high as when I received the email from Will Shortz himself in 2018 welcoming me with my first acceptance. As if a first date went spectacularly well compared to the 11th year of our marriage, things are different now. Some of the euphoria may have gone away, but I’ve found something much better: a sense of belonging to a community of kind-hearted, like-minded people who construct and solve puzzles.

My wife and I recently returned from a vacation where we drove the entire West Coast from Seattle to San Diego. I discovered so much on that trip, as we drove through different landscapes and cultures. What struck me most was that people on earth live in so many different ways. And mine is just one of them. I love that puzzles are a way for us to come together and share one experience, despite our many differences. Knowing that so many people will experience this puzzle at each stop on that journey from Washington to California is an overwhelming privilege that I never thought I would have.

I try to meditate to consider the interconnectedness of everything. Today, in this tangible way, my mind can connect to so many other minds in so many other places. The rapture has been replaced by something much deeper, and I thank you for being on the other side. I hope that collectively we can be much more mindful of our interconnectedness and interdependence as we navigate the world we find ourselves in today.

Want to join the conversation about New York Times Games, or maybe get some help with a particularly tricky puzzle? Here are the:

Spelling Bee Forum

Wordle Review

Connections Companion

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