NYT Crossword Answers for Aug. 3, 2023
wordplay, the crossword column
Simeon Seigel tells us not to work so hard.
By Deb Amlen
Jump to: Today’s Theme | Tricky Clues
THURSDAY PUZZLE — I’ll tell you what: I could really use a break. I think I’ll kick back and let you all discuss the puzzle on your own.
Just kidding. I always have something to say about the crossword, especially when the theme inspires me to dance, as I did while working on this very clever puzzle by Simeon Seigel.
When I solve a puzzle, I like to think that I am making progress — that I am moving forward. To be absolutely fair to Mr. Seigel, I did move forward in general, but I first had to go back a few steps. If we all do that enough times, we’re doing the cha-cha, and who doesn’t love that?
I’m sorry, I drifted. What I meant to say was that the grid’s four theme entries have been split in two. You may have noticed that fact when you wound up with AMUSES for the clue “Complete fools” at 15A. This is not to say that complete fools don’t amuse, but that is not the correct answer. The answer can be found by going back to the answer just before 15A, ASSIGNOR (13A), taking the last five letters from the word and tacking them on to the beginning of AMUSES. That gives us IGNORAMUSES.
Similarly, the answer to 39A’s “Echoes” is BERATES, which does not make a whole lot of sense, unless you are berating very loudly. But if you count back five letters from the end of 37A’s FOREVER and read from left to right (cha-cha-cha!), you will wind up with REVERBERATES.
Fortunately for us, there is a very clever and instructional revealer at 63A. Mr. Seigel has turned the phrase TAKE FIVE into a hint about how to solve those theme entries.
13A. I’m not sure what this disorder is called, but my brain convinced me that the answer to the clue, “Counterpart to a receiver, legally” was “co-signor,” which may not even be a thing (most of the dictionaries I checked spelled it “co-signer”), plus it had the added disadvantage of being completely and totally wrong. And I just kept doing it. Every time I came back to that section, I would type “co,” which would be marked incorrect, and I would wander off to another spot. Then I would return and do it again. The answer is really ASSIGNOR, a person who transfers the rights of a contract to an assignee, or receiver, which for all I know is spelled “receivor.”
16A. The phrase CUT NO ICE, clued today as “Carry zero weight, idiomatically,” last appeared in the New York Times Crossword in 1985. I don’t recall ever hearing it, but maybe it’s a regional thing.
17A. I love learning new things from crossword puzzles. Everyone is familiar with Tin Pan Alley, right? If you are not, it was “that little section of 28th Street, Manhattan, that lies between Broadway and Sixth Avenue,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. The name of the music mecca of the songwriting business in the early 20th century was taken from a “Rickety piano, in old music biz slang” called a TIN PAN, so named because its sound was reminiscent of tin pans clacking together.
10D. When I was in grade school, I can remember our teachers talking at various times about us children having to learn a universal language called ESPERANTO. The arguments for (offered by the teachers) and against it (from the parents) seemed to come and go around the same time our teachers were frantically looking for materials to teach us something called the metric system, which also mysteriously disappeared from our young lives. Anyway, the word for “crossword puzzle” in ESPERANTO is “krucvortenigmo,” which probably explains a lot about why the language never caught on.
34D. The spirits in “Some spirits” do not refer to alcohol in this puzzle. They are apparitions, and in this puzzle, they are GENII, the plural of “genie.”
Adding letters to the front of words isn’t inherently theme-worthy, because it’s so common in English. In order for it to be fodder for a puzzle, there needs to be as much surprise as possible: The parts should all change their meanings entirely, so a solver doesn’t see it coming too easily. It’s also more surprising when the “borrowed” letters are meaningless on their own (e.g., INDIG from SHINDIG), or unrelated to their context (e.g., TRAPS from STRAPS).
I found that if either part is too short or too long, the result tends to feel less transformed and thus less fun, but adding five letters to an unrelated six- or seven-letter word yielded the most unexpected results. I found fewer strong candidates for this theme than anticipated, and fit what I could on the grid. And luckily, TAKE FIVE presented itself as a handy reveal to help explain what’s going on.
It happens that Aug. 3 is my birthday, so I’ll use this space to say “Hi, Mom!” and thanks to you all for solving! Seeing this puzzle in print today (it was originally submitted April 2022) is a nice present.
Hope you enjoy it.
Christina Iverson, a puzzle editor, will send a weekly Friday puzzle with more accessible crossword 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.
If you solve the early-week puzzles but feel as if you don’t have the experience to go any further, think of the newsletter as a set of cruciverbal training wheels. Use the easy-mode clues until you don’t need them anymore, and then tell your friends who are struggling the way you were about how you prevailed over Fridays. Maybe they can benefit from this newsletter, too.
Take a look at the difference between the regular and easy-mode clues below. The links are a small sample of the clue numbers from the Friday puzzle. When you click on them, you will see the version that will run in the puzzle and the easier version.
(Warning: The following are spoilers for the Friday puzzle.)
Friday clue: “Junior mint?”
Easy-mode clue: “Plastic coins in a toy cash register, e.g.”
Friday clue: “Big sister?”
Easy-mode clue: “Nunnery leader”
Friday clue: “John Harvard, of Harvard University, and others”
Easy-mode clue: “Ordained ministers”
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 the link here.
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.”
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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