I dedicate this puzzle to my good friends Kier and Will, who introduced me to Iron Maiden's FEAR OF THE DARK back in college when I was simply uncultured swine. I'm still uncultured swine, but at least with a broader taste in music.
The answer that means the most to me is DANSKO, since my mom was their Creative Director before she passed away a few years ago. I recognize this may be a tough answer for people, so I apologize in advance. I can't say crossing it with TALESE feels totally fair in retrospect. But I'm excellent at receiving feedback, so you can send all critiques and/or hate mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please don't hold back.
Sorry to be a bit sappy here, but I'm very happy to get my true love's name in the puzzle, too, with NINTENDO. Ahh, romance. Gaming is a huge passion of mine (and my job again now, working in Amazon Prime Gaming). Hope you enjoy the puzzle, from one Elden Lord to another.
I'm sorry that I put 34-Across in this grid. You won't see it in another puzzle of mine.
This theme was inspired by Sid's constructor notes, which sent me searching for crossword conventions I could violate in service of a tricky theme. I liked the idea of using fake cross-references because a) I generally don't like real cross-references, and b) I figured that people wouldn't suspect them as the culprits. I hope it kept you stumped for exactly the right amount of time.
One added difficulty in constructing this puzzle was that I needed 1-Across and 1-Down to both be words that could plausibly be part of multiple idioms/phrases, to keep solvers off the scent as long as possible. You would have known something was up right away if 1-Across was, like, AIDA or OLEO. That turned out to be more difficult than I expected, but I like the BACK/BEST combination. An earlier version (with a different theme set) had MAGIC/MATH, which doesn't work quite as well.
As I am typing this, I don't know whether the online solver or app will highlight 1-Across or 1-Down when your cursor is on the theme answers, but it sure would be extra tricky if it did...
I hope you enjoyed today's puzzle; it has a few fun facts (yes, Jimi Hendrix really did open for the Monkees!), a few misdirects, a few softballs, plus some debuts… everything I like to include in a Friday puzzle.
If you had fun solving my puzzle and would like to try more of them, please check out my new puzzle book coming out on June 7: Sit & Solve Hard Mini Crosswords. The "Sit and Solve" series is marketed as puzzles for the bathroom (who am I to argue with a successful marketing campaign?), but you have my permission to solve them in any room of the house. You can also take the book wherever you go because it's a pocket-size collection of 10x10s. And it makes a great stocking stuffer (if you're one of those people who likes to plan ahead).
Pre-order it today from your favorite book retailer, and then please let me know if you enjoy the puzzles @Robynw414 on Twitter. But seriously, no photos if you do decide to solve them in the bathroom.
And if easy puzzles are more your thing, my friend (and fellow New York Times constructor) Adesina O. Koiki has a book of Sit & Solve easy puzzles coming out on June 7 too. Or better yet, pick up a copy of each and give them both a try!
Hey y'all! Glad to be back…and on a Saturday this time! I write puzzles with the goal of a Friday's breeziness in mind so was surprised to see this slotted for the tougher day. Then again, every puzzle seems easier when you create all the answers. The editing team did a great job adding extra trickery to some clues — I hope it allowed for some "aha moments" that make Saturday puzzles so enjoyable.
This puzzle began with the NAME SIGN/DRAG MOTHER combination. ASL was my favorite subject in college (thanks Professor O'Donnell!) and I'm lucky to live in a city with great local drag performers. As an avid runner and Survivor superfan, it's always fun to leave my personal touch on some clues as well.
Happy Pride month, with special gratitude for trailblazers like Edie Windsor and Marsha P. Johnson, just to name a couple.
CHRISTINA: As a lifelong reader and a huge fan of classic literature, I was very excited when Katie pitched this idea to me. She had already come up with most of the entries here but felt stuck and wanted to bounce ideas off of someone. I'm glad she chose me! This is one of my favorite puzzles I've worked on.
We had some other great entries, but decided to add the constraint of adding exactly one syllable to make an author's name. We also decided to stick with what we hope are very recognizable names.
Some of my favorite rejects that didn't fit or meet our constraints:
KATIE: This puzzle would not be where it is today if I hadn't asked Christina to come on board. I had been trying to get a set to work for months, got happy with it, even made a fully filled in (and clued!) grid, then changed my mind and scrapped the whole thing. I began doubting myself and almost parked in my file folder with other half-baked ideas.
But I knew the theme had merit if I could just get the right mix. When I pitched it to Christina, she quickly came back with so many options I hadn't thought of. I didn't know at the time that she was such a classics fan. We had a lot of fun making this puzzle (way more fun than I had agonizing over it alone), and I'm really proud of how it turned out.
My only regret about this grid is that it wouldn't work to have BLOW UP MY PHONE in it! It took me a while to brainstorm the full theme set, but it was old-fashioned, pure thinking without any Web searching (ironic, perhaps), and it was so satisfying to come up with each of the themers and then, finally, the revealer.
When not crosswording, I am a circus artist and coach based in Madison, Wisconsin. You can follow me on Instagram and join my Patreon if you would like to see more of my circus work. And if anyone would like to learn German wheel, teeterboard, juggling, aerial hoop, or static or flying trapeze (or hire me to perform any of them!), you know where to find me!
Thank you so much to my partner, Luke, who always puzzles with me; to my awesome test solvers; and to everyone who has encouraged me and offered feedback, especially the Inkubator team, David and Amanda at Universal, Andrew and John from Boswords, Pavel Curtis, Wren Schultz, and Jess Shulman (the best puzzle buddy EVER). Biggest thanks to Will Nediger, whose patience and amazing mentorship are why I've made any halfway decent puzzles.
My first submission had the theme entries in a different order — they liked the fill and all five theme entries but not the fact that the -eth endings were at the ends on the first three and in the middle on the last two. They felt solvers would see a pattern on the first three and quickly fill in -eth on the last two and be flummoxed!
For my next try, I removed four blocks and switched entries, but they didn't like the fill as well. So I put the blocks back in and tweaked the fill and... they acceptethed it!
Obviously, PUBLIC TOILETH is the entry that got me jazzed about doing this theme in the first place.
I'm thrilled to be making my NYT crossword debut! This puzzle was inspired by the March 3rd, 2021 crossword as I started thinking of other phrases that could be interpreted in a similar way.
Attempts 1-5 had the revealer THE BIG SHORT with 4 squares with the rebus entry BIG. This had some entries I liked (BIG BOXS TORES, BIG MAC), but some duds (IN A BIG WAY) and I didn't like having the revealer include the rebus square.
The next few iterations had the theme PIXAR SHORTS with the rebuses WALLE, CARS, UP, and COCO. This also had some entries I liked (OS[CARS]NUB) but some that fell flat (LEATHER[WALLE]T).
Once I realized that changing to SHORT FILMS could expand my options, I had a few grid attempts with COCO, TRON, BIG, and UP. I liked things like GAS[TRON]OMY, but the grid was too constrained and the theme set wasn't very tight.
Eventually finding IT and US as options was great, but the other true 2-letter movies are far less well known. I bent the rules a bit using ET (it's officially E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) and did the majority of my construction attempts (another 15 or so) with the theme set in the final puzzle.
Hope you enjoy the puzzle!
When I started work on this puzzle, I wanted to keep the word count low, place crossing stacks in the center, and maintain 90-degree rotational symmetry. As a newbie trying to break into the themeless rotation, I hoped that combination would set the puzzle apart. I tried various approaches that would also keep the block count low before finally trying the four six-block staircases that made it to the final version. You can't have it all!
This grid is the first time I've used staircases for themeless construction, and it felt like a cheat code. I imagine a statistician could do a deep-dive analysis of exactly how much the format aids in puzzle construction. On this one, at least, the staircases made all the difference in achieving rigid construction goals while keeping the fill (hopefully) lively and fresh.
The puzzle came in at 62 words, and my use of the staircases led me back to the XWord Info list of low-word-count puzzles to see how common the staircase approach has been for similar puzzles. Twenty-seven 62-worders appeared before Patrick Berry's November 21, 2008 puzzle became the first to use four staircase block sets (without any adjacent blocks). Since 2019, six of the ten (and now seven of the eleven) 62-worders have done so. A cool case study for evolving editorial and construction tastes.
62-word themeless grids are tough to construct and even tougher to get published these days. Modern 70- and 72-word themelesses are favored by editors as they're typically livelier, cleaner, and more accessible than low-word-count grids. But those who enjoy solving this genre of puzzle might have noticed a rare occurrence this weekend: Blake Slonecker's puzzle from yesterday and mine today each have 62 answer words. (That hasn't happened in the Times since 2017 when Patrick Berry and Jeff Chen had back-to-back 62-word jaunts.)
To create this puzzle, I started with the grid pattern, inspired by Nam Jin Yoon's themelesses with off-center stair stacks. This layout allowed me to tinker with the top-left and bottom-right corners independently but left open extra corridors (26-Across and 33-Across here) for solvers to access each region. After finding some corner options I liked, I tested them pairwise for compatibility. Eventually, I hit upon a combination that glued together seamlessly with other nice answers, forming the grid you see today.
This puzzle is dedicated to my love Mahima, to whom I'm getting married this Friday; and to our families and friends with whom we'll be celebrating, as the glue that seamlessly keeps us all together.
A couple of names in this one that might be unfamiliar to a lot of solvers. If Luigi RUSSOLO is new to you, I hope you read up on this fascinating figure, who invented his own experimental musical instruments and wrote a manifesto called "The Art of Noises."
On an unrelated note: I'd like to state for the record that I don't think 78-Across parsed as AN I is a legitimate crossword answer (I clued it as ANI).
Sometimes you labor and labor for weeks over a theme idea that just doesn't quite work. And other times, one of you runs up from the basement from doing laundry and yells, "I got it! What about JUMPSUITS?"
For this one, the grid took a while to come together, especially at a smoothness level that we felt matched the early-week difficulty of the theme. In the end, we did feel like we got to stick some of our faves in the fill (food, travel, driving maneuvers we can't execute well).
Lastly, a lovely bit of kismet for the publication of this puzzle: the day before this runs, we'll have hosted an ALPACA-themed birthday party for our daughter. We hope someday she enjoys this puzzle as much as ALPACAs, but we're not holding our breath.
My older sister first introduced me to crossword puzzles when I was in middle school and she was visiting home from college. I enjoyed solving them with her, but in the years that followed, my crosswording was mostly limited to in-flight magazines and the back page of my college newspaper.
But during the lockdowns of the pandemic, doing crossword puzzles helped to keep me sane. I was gifted a NY Times subscription (thanks Phil!) and the crossword became part of my daily routine. I started recording videos as I solved the puzzles and posted them to YouTube to share with friends. Even when we were all stuck at home, we would meet on Zoom to chat and solve crosswords and cryptics together.
All of this puzzling got me thinking about how crosswords are put together and what themes I really enjoy. I hope figuring out the theme of my puzzle brings you some joy. Other themers I considered were LITTLE FINGER and BLACK SESAME. I also wonder how many people have PET LOBSTERs.
Special thanks to Liz Chen, Alex Lazar, and Oriana Wen, who are great test solvers and even better friends.
Hello, Crossworld! I teach English at Barrington (IL) High School. Go Broncos!
I may be the Person Who Took the Longest to Get an NYT Puzzle Accepted. I submitted my first puzzle in 2007. Fourteen years and 30ish rejections later, on June 16, 2021, I opened an email from the Times including the glorious words "we are delighted to officially say YES!" Weeping may have ensued.
This might also be the first puzzle completed with psychic help. After receiving a conditional acceptance pending extensive revisions, I chatted with my friend, psychic Marla Frees, who helped me overcome severe "reviser's block". Having no knowledge of the puzzle, Marla intuitively guided me to the very thing I had to do to successfully revise!
I dedicate this puzzle to my parents who would have been very excited today. Both were alive when I submitted my first puzzle but have since passed away. Also to my awesome brother Rick!
@Carly Simon, 2022 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee/my favorite singer/songwriter: If you'd like to collaborate on a New York Times celebrity puzzle, JLMK! Twitter @Baker_BHS.
Today's theme quip isn't original to me, though I feel I made it my own with the 15/3/15/3/15 layout and the intriguing solitary rebus. It was hard to include exciting longer fill, though I like SAWHORSE, TAKE FLAK, LIT OUT, SURE DO, COOL TO. Ideally, I'd have replaced FRUTTI, KISSIN, and PENH but was glad to include Agatha Christie, teenaged-me's favorite author.
PARKER: It's always fun to breathe some life into a joke that is literally centuries old. This puzzle got started when I told my friend and frequent collaborator Ross about the eighteenth century racehorse Potoooooooo (pronounced: "potatoes") whose biography goes viral on social media from time to time. It's an old joke, but it works!
As is our custom, I sat down to write software to try to find examples that met the pattern, while Ross just thought about it really hard and came up with the same stuff. We tried versions with a revealer, we tried standard rotational symmetry, but working with the editing team at the Times we arrived at this version which really shines.
I'm tickled to have such a bold 1A answer (and clue!) in my debut. My only regret is we couldn't find a way to squeeze CHICKENDDDDDDDDDD into the grid.
Ross and I published a print zine of 12 crossword puzzles with a Spelling Bee twist earlier this year, and we stream solving and constructing crosswords on a Twitch channel called Cursewords Live. If you're reading this before 8pm Eastern on Thursday, come join us then for some cruciverbal fun!
My primary goal in constructing this themeless was to pack in as much lively, long fill (8+ letters long) as possible — words and phrases that felt dynamic, had few appearances in past crosswords, and could be clued in fun and tricky ways. Themelesses feel more personal to me than themed puzzles, and I enjoy constructors' unique voices shining through when unrestrained by a theme.
The most crucial area of growth for me in making puzzles has been the tedious task of word list management. It's not the sexiest part of crossword construction, but it really goes a long way to differentiating the fill in my puzzles from those of other constructors. Like many constructors, I derive my word list from the XWord Info Word List. This was immensely helpful to me as a beginner, but I've found it necessary to constantly reappraise these default values, so that my puzzles can reflect my own unique value system.
(ON A SIDE NOTE: Word list management is probably the nerdiest interest of mine as a crossword constructor. I'm curious how others organize, score, and revise their personal lists. I appreciate the constructors who deviate from the default canon of cultural references and make puzzles, particularly themelesses, that have unique voices.)
A few other thoughts:
To me, those three stacked circles on a traffic light seemed like a perfect visual to appear in a crossword. A satisfying concept clicked: Answers in one direction could include RED or GREEN, while their crossings could include STOP or GO.
My first strategy was dropping traffic lights into a sea of white squares. With unlit signal lights representing blank answer squares, skipped over by the horizontal crossers. Ultimately, this design felt too unintuitive for a solver to understand. A stronger strategy became using a traffic light as a triple stack of blocker squares. Having the unlit squares of the traffic signal behave as traditional blockers, while its RED or GREEN square joins an answer crossing through the light.
In my submission to the Times, I clued the word on the right side of an illuminated signal square as a separate answer with a misdirecting clue. [Money makers] for MINTS in WINTER (GREEN) MINTS, for example. The idea being this would help hide which light is colorized, allowing the solver "light" the signal. However, I appreciate how the Times team pivoted to a simpler approach of starting the grid with the signals lit. This helps establish the color rebus from the jump, giving the solver some early momentum while still leaving the fun GO/STOP twist to discover. Here's hoping this setup offers a satisfying solve!
The choice to include a yellow light was made about halfway through construction. I knew from the start that this puzzle theme felt incomplete without it, but what YELLOW represents isn't as clear-cut as RED or GREEN. So I proceeded without it. Until it occurred to me that having yellow represent both GO and STOP could be a fun twist. Producing a sort of Schrödinger answer, giving the solver a choice of either "braking" or "flooring it."
Favorite debut answer in this puzzle? DEADASS, of course! Fingers crossed, this puzzle leaves you deadass happy.
The initial idea for this puzzle involved removing -LAND from country names and finding phrases that ended with the remaining letters. But the archetype of "the end of each themer can be followed by X" is rather passé, so the idea evolved into demonyms and homophones. My apologies to the Danes, but DEIGNS isn't a noun and doesn't have any good phrases.
Though I'm satisfied with this grid, there's room for improvement. Forty blocks is too high for my tastes. TUE is gluey. The collision of ANKA/DIOS/KOLN is rough. The longest non-theme answers are only some 7s and 8s. After the grid was accepted as a Monday puzzle, I tried redesigning the grid with fewer blocks and some longer bonuses for practice. I succeeded, albeit with not quite Monday-friendly fill, and the reworked grid lost ETHNIC which feels apt as a secondary revealer.
If it seems like the clues are leaning heavily on country names or their adjectival forms, that's a deliberate attempt to underscore the theme. Thanks to the editing team for changing my rambling clue for KOLN: German name of a German city whose English name is actually French.
Regarding LESS, when I submitted the puzzle, I was unaware of the debate over this, but Weird Al, renowned grammarian of "Word Crimes" fame, agrees with the clue.
About ALL, Dante's original Italian phrase ("Lasciate ogne speranza…") suggests ALL should precede "hope," but its placement differs depending on the translation, possibly for meter.
Anyway, happy solving.
This is the last pre-pandemic daily puzzle I had left in the NYT queue. It's been a crazy couple of years since it was accepted. Lots of changes in the crossworld and in society at large.
My next several crosswords in the Times will probably be variety puzzles. Similarly, as Will Shortz mentioned in his introduction to my most recent Sunday grid, my first published puzzle book is a collection of diagramless crosswords. It comes out next month from Puzzlewright Press and includes an extensive how-to-solve guide for diagramless newbies. You can pre-order a copy here.
Diagramless puzzles are clued on the easier side, so even if you're only a mid-week solver, I'd encourage you to try the next one the Times runs (it might even be by me!). Or, if you'd prefer to check out the archives, look at February 6, 2022, June 27, 2021, or October 18, 2020.
I left several "seconds" on the cutting room floor while creating today's puzzle, including HELIUM, EXODUS, TAURUS, and FEBRUARY. Needless to say, I had a hard time finding a word that starts with UARY!
If you're looking for some bonus fun after solving this puzzle, might I recommend guessing what year each of these featured fasteners was invented? You might also enjoy perusing their respective Wikipedia entries: I didn't previously know about the connection between snaps and Western wear, nor did I previously have so many unanswered questions about adhesive tape.
Also, I'm thrilled about the crossword debut of ZIPPER MERGE, which is, of course, the most efficient way to deal with lane closures.
P.S. Happy birthday to my wife, Tory!
I had a couple of interesting options with the oxygen atoms spaced out, MINUS to OMINOUS, SANDS to SO AND SO, NEVER to ONE OVER. The chemistry nerd in me now looks back at those options, shaking his condescending head, wondering how anyone could possibly break up the oxygen diatoms.
But the engineering geek in me points out that wouldn't it be more accurate to display the single oxygen atoms bubbling up randomly through the themers, reflecting the oxygenation process during steelmaking?
NO, you fool engineer! Think about oxygenation in the therapeutic sense. Do we deliver singular oxygen atoms to patients in need?
My kids will undoubtedly be in therapy twenty years from now.
SOPHIA: Beyond thrilled to be publishing with Margaret, whose work I've admired for years. She created a grid skeleton with KANGAROO POUCH and LOVER'S QUARREL crossing SORORITY SQUAT (her original clue of [Rushing position, for a snap] is the thing I was most sad to lose in the edit). From there, we took turns iterating on fill, and I'm very happy with the quantity of cheese in our final result.
MARGARET: Sophia is one of my favorite constructors, so getting to publish my first themeless puzzle with her is a dream. She has an exacting eye and a unique ability to fill open corners with the best combination of mid-length answers. Especially when "good" fill is so subjective, it's wonderful to find a collaborator on the same wavelength (especially about how much dairy you should fit in a grid).
Happy to bring you another Saturday! This puzzle calls for a shoutout to my older sister Lindsey, who helped me brainstorm clues while we were both home for the holidays last winter. As a longtime Vans employee, she was singlehandedly responsible for the ERA clue you see today (not sponsored, but I wouldn't complain if Vans hit me up).
This summer I'm in Pittsburgh interning at Duolingo, where we have a crossword club that meets during lunch every day to solve New York Times puzzles together (hi, Alina, Ming, and Art!). I can't wait to sit there smugly as my coworkers solve this in front of me!
Happy Sunday! We're so excited to be sharing our first co-byline in the NYT Magazine. The initial idea for this theme came to Matthew almost three years ago, and we enjoyed taking our time getting the puzzle into its final form.
A good chunk of the work came during a long Zoom session last summer, where we decided at the last minute to stretch the first and last theme entries to 21 letters each. This upped our idea to a whopping 128 theme squares — every down entry in the puzzle except for two (45-Down and 79-Down) crosses at least one themer! — but we think these entries were worth the extra constraint. We found that opening up those northwest and southeast corners and allowing for longer down entries actually made the fill process easier.
We hope you enjoy the puzzle and find the hidden meta answer! If this inspires you to watch a movie this week, Matthew recommends Taika Waititi's Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) and Finn recommends, in the spirit of Pride, And Then We Danced (2019).
Since I live in a Bay Area beach town, I wish I could say that witnessing a majestic Pacific sunset compelled me to construct this puzzle. It's often foggy here, though, and as dusk nears, I'm usually occupied with my two young girls.
The real inspiration for this puzzle was Lynn Lempel's excellent 2019 puzzle. I looked for a way to add a new wrinkle to this theme concept. After finding the revealer, I was glad to find a symmetrical pairing (SUNNI ISLAM) that hid SUN with a different pronunciation, plus the other three theme answers that hid SUN across word breaks.
I'm not the only constructor who has recently found inspiration from the sun. I solved Max Lauring's offering in late April more quickly than a typical Thursday because his grid shared one identical theme answer and one similar one with mine.
As for the fill, I could have upped the word count from 76 to 78, but I hope the bits of glue like ACS and the partial ONE I were worth the tradeoffs for the long across answers like THEME SONGS and MUSIC SCENE.
Ta-da! Totally thrilled to toss this "T" theme to the Times! 'Twas tricky to tackle the teeming T's that this Tuesday theme took. Truthfully, the talented Times team tailored top-notch transformations to the tiresome text. Thanks to them, the terms trending towards terrible trash turned to twinkling treasure. This tongue-twisting type thus terminates the traditional theme talk. Therefore, time to tell the thesaurus, "Take that! Torpedoed! Toast!"
Phew! That's a lot of Ts. Tons, you might say. This puzzle was inspired by William I. Johnston's wonderful L-themed puzzle from 2002.
Thanks to my friends Adrienne, Elly, and Nikki for their feedback on my many drafts. I hope everyone had as much fun solving this puzzle as I had creating it!
Hello, NYT Crossworld! 'm a writer, a proud St. Louisan, and (as of May) a Tulane alum with majors in Theatre and Political Science. I made most of this puzzle backstage during last year's spring show (I hit my cues, I promise)!
This is a fairly new passion for me. Cracking Jim Peredo's January 2020 NYT crossword hooked me in as a newbie solver and sparked my interest in making a puzzle of my own. I thank him for taking the time to keep his ambitious grid clean. Any time I'm tempted to slack off in the fill today, I remind myself of the thrill I felt finishing his puzzle then.
I'm proud of my cleanliness under the rebus constraints, but I wish I'd been able to squeeze in stronger entries (pun intended). INH(AB)IT(AB)LE gave me the symmetry I needed, but it's no SANT(AB)(AB)Y.
Shout-outs to Phil (the perfect "gateway-drug" website for aspiring constructors) and XWord Info (an indispensable resource for me every step of the way). And thank you for checking out my eight-pack!
SAM: Doug and I have collaborated on many crosswords over the years (Lisa Loeb and I have the same Peterson Number!). This one pretty much followed the usual process: I came up with the theme idea and revealer and pitched it to Doug; he kept one of my theme entries and came up with three replacements that were better; he constructed the grid (in this case, being careful not to include the letter I anywhere in the grid); I nodded and said to myself, "yep, this is pretty much perfect;" I wrote the clues (in this case, it was only at this stage that I thought of the gimmick for cluing the theme entries); and Doug corrected the errors in my clues.
I vividly remember receiving the acceptance for this puzzle last summer while on my first trip to the Napa Valley. That's a nice place to celebrate an acceptance!
DOUG: It's always a blast to work with Sam, and not just because he's way too nice with his constructor comments. This puzzle wouldn't exist without his creative spark. Hope you enjoy solving!