Jump to: Tricky Clues
FRIDAY PUZZLE — If you subscribe to the notion that “many a truth comes out in crossword puzzles whether the constructor is conscious of it or not,” then I think we can all agree that Rafael Musa was worried about something when he made this puzzle. There are quite a few entries that reveal how he was feeling, which I will point out after the spoiler alert.
In the meantime, I say we try to raise his spirits so that he can enjoy his weekend. Say something nice about his puzzle in the comments.
If I’m reading Mr. Musa’s clues correctly — I use a strobe light — he feels as if he is in a HELLSCAPE (1A). I don’t know exactly what he is going through, but clearly Mr. Musa understands that, in crossword construction at least, the maxim “NO PAIN, NO GAIN” (33A) is applicable, even if it means racking up a good amount of SLEEP DEBT (64A).
Enough sleep deprivation could put anyone into a SNIT (5D), but at least he had the presence of mind to give a shout-out to Spelling Bee with 39D’s PANGRAM.
21A. When I read the clue “‘Shuck it!’” my first thought was that we were going to be shucking corn, but the answer needed to be six letters. Today, we’re shucking an OYSTER.
26A. The question mark at the end of “Rulers’ divisions?” means that the ruler in question may be either a monarch or a measuring stick. In this puzzle, the ruler is a monarch, and the divisions are ERAS.
36A. I loved playing (word game) when I was a kid. Every time I got out the (noun) of MAD LIBs, my (sibling) and I (past tense verb) for (time period).
39A. The “Heads” in “Heads outside?” refer to toilets, and the ones that are outside are PORTA-POTTIES.
41A. “Note-taking spot?” sounds as if we are supposed to be thinking about a classroom, but the word note is also slang for paper money. You can take these notes from an ATM.
59A. Those who are big fans of Justin Bieber are called BELIEBERS, which is a portmanteau of “believer” and “Bieber.”
8D. I will never say no to a good PAD THAI, the “Dish flavored with tamarind paste and fish sauce,” but I am partial to pad kee mao, which is also called drunken noodles. The noodles themselves are not drunk, of course. The dish was supposedly created as a spicy way to encourage diners to eat more.
29D. This was a tricky one, because I took the clue “Providers of some allergy shots” to mean the series of injections a person receives in order to build immunity to a specific allergen. The answer is EPIPENS, which are used to immediately stop a serious allergy attack.
37D. Other than the difficulty in booking tickets, the delays, the expense, the crowding, the plastic food and the other, irritable travelers, the thing I dislike most about flying is the battle over the ARMRESTS. I think they should be wider, so both travelers can rest their elbows on them comfortably, and when I rule the world it shall be thus.
Once I was complaining about dating to Adam Wagner, and he sent me this video. The (incorrect) idea is that dating is just like looking for the right Porta-Potty. You should sample a certain number of boyfriends/PORTA-POTTIES and then go for the first one that’s better than all of those.
Despite a multitude of serious issues with this analogy, the Porta-Potty thing became a bit of an inside joke between us. (I don’t know how many boyfriends I’ll be able to sample, PORTA-POTTIES don’t cheat on you, sampling a Porta-Potty is fast and they don’t change over time, you don’t necessarily need different things from a Porta-Potty at age 20 vs. 40, no Porta-Potty has ever rejected me, etc.)
Though it has not helped me find a boyfriend (yet!), the analogy inspired me to seed a puzzle with PORTA-POTTIES, and now here we are with a publication in The New York Times (the second best thing, really). I also owe Adam for the incredible clue on that entry!
Paul Steinberg (1953-2023)
Paul Steinberg, a research communications analyst at RAND, humorist and crossword constructor, died of atypical Parkinsonism in Monterey, Calif., on Aug. 19.
While at RAND, Paul began submitting jokes to “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” Mr. Leno rarely bought freelance submissions, but Mr. Steinberg loved joke writing and kept at it, ultimately submitting more than 16,000 of them. Ten of his jokes were bought and appeared on-air. He also sent jokes to The Los Angeles Times’s longtime “Laugh Lines” feature, where many were published.
Mr. Steinberg met his wife, Karen, while at the University of California, Berkeley, and the two were married for 45 years.
Their son, David, who published his first crossword puzzle in The New York Times at age 14, taught his parents how to construct puzzles during the pandemic. The elder Mr. Steinberg enjoyed thinking up crossword themes, and went on to publish 13 collaborative crosswords in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times and the Universal Crossword.
According to Will Shortz, The Times’s crossword editor, the Steinbergs’ May 22, 2022, puzzle was the paper’s “first all-family crossword collaboration.”
Mr. Steinberg is survived by his wife and son, who thank his various doctors, Hospice of the Central Coast providers and Westland House staff. A celebration of Paul’s life may take place in Los Angeles later this year.
Don’t Fear the Fridays: About the Easy Mode Newsletter
Christina Iverson, a puzzle editor, will send a weekly Friday crossword with more accessible clues right to your inbox if you sign up for the Easy Mode newsletter. This extra bit of goodness is for those who would like to try the Friday puzzles but have heard all about how hard they are.
Take a look at the difference between the regular and easy-mode clues below. The links are a small sample of the clues from the Friday puzzle. When you click on them, you will see the version that will run in the regular puzzle as well as the easier version.
(Warning: The following are spoilers for the Friday puzzle.)
Friday clue: “Rulers' divisions?”
Easy-mode clue: “Sections of a historical timeline”
Friday clue: “Portmanteau in 2010s fandom”
Easy-mode clue: “Portmanteau for fans of a 2000s teen idol”
Friday clue: “Places to rub elbows?”
Easy-mode clue: “Places for elbows on planes”
Not so tough, right? You can definitely solve Friday puzzles. You may just need some practice before you’re conquering them on your own.
To sign up for the Easy Mode newsletter, click here.
Want to Submit Crosswords to The New York Times?
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.”
The Tipping Point
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Spoiler alert: Subscribers can take a peek at the answer key.
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Deb Amlen, the crossword columnist and senior staff editor of Wordplay, believes that everyone can learn to solve the Times crossword. She is the author of the humor book, “It's Not P.M.S., It's You.” More about Deb Amlen