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New York Times, Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Author:
Dan Caprera
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutCollabs
17/31/20190
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0001000
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.65000
Dan Caprera

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 74, Blocks: 38 Missing: {J} Spans: 4 This is the debut puzzle for Mr. Caprera. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Dan Caprera notes:
This was only the third crossword puzzle I'd ever made, so the original draft of this puzzle was, you know, pretty rough. Instead of ... read more

This was only the third crossword puzzle I'd ever made, so the original draft of this puzzle was, you know, pretty rough. Instead of four rhyming-couplet clues, the original draft had six treasure hunt clues that spanned across the board diagonally and in all four compass directions. Simply put, it was way too complicated. So I'm glad (and extremely lucky) that Joel and Will took a chance and allowed me to salvage this puzzle!

Fun fact: when I originally sent off this puzzle to the New York Times, I printed it on old-timey parchment paper and included a handful of plastic pirate doubloons in the submission envelope. I'm not entirely sure if that ended up helping or hurting me. But, if there are any aspiring cruciverbalists out there looking for a quick way to get published, remember: sometimes bribery works!

Jeff Chen notes:
Every day, I bring home three books from the library to read to my kids. I search for as many pirate ones as possible — even if ... read more

Every day, I bring home three books from the library to read to my kids. I search for as many pirate ones as possible — even if the book is groan-worthy, at least I can practice my pirate accent. Arr!

More than ten budding constructors have approached me with ideas similar to this one, and why not? The idea of integrating a treasure map into a grid --and maybe even having the solver find real treasure? — is appealing. Dan's concept works – following a path from the skull, pacing east, south, west, to end at the lone X. X marks the spot!

I loved the inclusion of the skull (see grid below). There's huge potential in visuals like this, aspects emphatically declaring that the print edition of newspapers still has advantages most e-solving can't replicate. (I am curious to see what the NYT xw digital team does with this. I've been impressed by how much they've improved the e-solving process at their website.)

Interesting decision to include long fill in the across direction, COMMANDO adding spice to the pirate theme. They're not directly related – and maybe there are such things as INTRANET pirates? sure, why not! – but I did enjoy it.

Heavy price to pay, though. Four grid-spanning themers are difficult to work with. If you don't space them properly – look how close together START AT THE SKULL and EAST TWELVE PACES are – you're bound to have trouble. Even for a mid-week puzzle, where some crossword glue is passable for regular solvers, there's way too much of it. A more traditional layout, with the second and third themers moved one row toward the middle, would have been better.

I would have loved some way of digging for the treasure – over the years, contructors have suggested a rebus of GEMS, Schrödinger of X / BOOTY, and much more – but fun concept overall. The colorful piratic clues were great.

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© 2019, The New York TimesNo. 0731 ( 25,467 )
Across
1
1/16 of a cup: Abbr. : TBSP
5
Something to drool over? : BIB
8
Mr. of detective fiction : MOTO
12
Ghostly, say : EERIE
13
Suffix with acetyl : ENE
14
"Scrubs" nurse married to Dr. Turk : CARLA
16
"Arr, matey! So ye seek buried treasure to fill yer ship's hull? Well, the first clue is easy. Just ___" : STARTATTHESKULL
19
Muscleman with a mohawk : MRT
20
Clip : SHEAR
21
Wintry chill : NIP
22
"At yer next clue already? Then off to the races! Now turn toward the dawn and go ___" : EASTTWELVEPACES
27
Portfolio options, for short : IRAS
28
Venmo transfer, e.g. : ECASH
29
Member of a raiding party : COMMANDO
33
Like universal recipients : TYPEAB
36
"Dies ___" (hymn) : IRAE
37
Marauder's tool : AXE
39
Vagabond : HOBO
40
Like an American in Paris : ABROAD
43
Companywide info-sharing system : INTRANET
46
Dennis of "The Alamo" : QUAID
48
Pond swimmer : TEAL
49
"Aye, the treasure be heavy, so flex yer biceps! With this third clue, turn right and go ___" : SOUTHSEVENSTEPS
55
Folk rocker DiFranco : ANI
56
Singer Black : CLINT
57
1930s Depression-fighting org. : NRA
58
"'X' marks the spot! Grab a spade! Dance a jig! Here's the very last clue. Proceed ___" : WESTFIVETHENDIG
63
___ York (biggest city in los Estados Unidos) : NUEVA
64
Farm female : EWE
65
Grab, as booty : SEIZE
66
H.S. exam : PSAT
67
Sound from a punctured tire : SSS
68
Schlep : TOTE
Down
1
Colorful aquarium swimmer : TETRA
2
Babysitters' banes : BRATS
3
Francis Drake, for one : SIR
4
Pirate's parrot, e.g. : PET
5
Where the National Institutes of Health is headquartered : BETHESDA
6
It's gathered during recon : INTEL
7
"Act your age!" : BEHAVE
8
Roast V.I.P.s : MCS
9
___ Island (storied site of buried treasure) : OAK
10
Officer's baton : TRUNCHEON
11
Skateboarding maneuver : OLLIE
12
Salinger heroine : ESME
15
Swiss range : ALPS
17
City on the Nile : ASWAN
18
Build : ERECT
23
Preschool punishment : TIMEOUT
24
Refrain syllable : TRA
25
Settle up : PAY
26
It covers a lot of ground : ASPHALT
29
Surveillance org. : CIA
30
Magic 8 Ball, e.g. : ORB
31
French noblemen or noblewomen : MARQUISES
32
Commercial lead-in to Clean : OXI
34
Honest ___ : ABE
35
Spam generator : BOT
38
Diplomatic arrangements : ENTENTES
41
"That's the spot!" : AAH
42
Things hurled at the Olympics : DISCI
44
Like John Tyler, among all U.S. presidents : TENTH
45
Univ. dorm supervisors : RAS
47
Looks closely (into) : DELVES
49
Cut into planks, say : SAWN
50
Best : ONEUP
51
Metric that determines YouTube success : VIEWS
52
Stop seeing each other : ENDIT
53
Pirate's booty, say : PRIZE
54
Wise : SAGE
59
Fed. electricity provider since 1933 : TVA
60
"___ chance!" : FAT
61
D.C. winter hrs. : EST
62
Prefix with Latin or Luddite : NEO

Answer summary: 6 unique to this puzzle.

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