NYT Crossword Answers: Term of Address in Colonial India
WEDNESDAY PUZZLE – Congratulations to Sam Koperwas, who made his first appearance in The New York Times Crossword today, and to Jeff Chen, who made his 133rd. Incredibly, this is also Mr. Chen’s 88th collaboration, and Mr. Koperwas is Mr. Chen’s 50th. collaborater. This kind of dedication to mentoring new builders is unprecedented among New York Times crossword builders — the person with the closest associates is 20 fewer than Mr. Chen.
You might think that when a puzzle has two builders, it impacts the personality or voice of the puzzle. Sometimes it does, but because collaboration in crossword puzzle building can happen in different ways, most of these puzzles manage to maintain a sense of cohesion. In some collaborations, one builder will create the grid and the other will write the clues, while in others they might split creating the grid and writing the clues equally, or they might build and write the clues together using videoconferencing and screen. share. But whatever construction methods the collaborators use, they aim to create a puzzle that feels whole, even if the builders themselves offer vastly different perspectives.
Today’s collaboration from Mr. Koperwas and Mr. Chen certainly seems cohesive – there’s no part of the puzzle that seems to go in two directions, other than the theme (which intentionally does!). More on that below, but first, let’s look at some of the trickier clues and entries in this puzzle.
22A. I struggled to parse the response to “Jaguar spot, for example.” I had CAR___ and couldn’t find a big cat related word that started with CAR until I realized that a Jaguar is also a type of CAR, so a “Jaguar spot” is a CAR *AD*.
25A. The “brand so named because it limits ultraviolet light” is RAY BAN, probably because the lenses “BLOCK” ultraviolet rays from reaching your eyes.
28A. The “big name in shampoo” is apparently PRELL, but I’m not sure how “big” that name really is – I’ve used shampoo my whole life and never come across the PRELL brand! However, it appeared 21 other times in the New York Times crossword, so I guess I just didn’t pay attention to it.
30A. A question mark indicates a pun, in this case on the word “band” – instead of referring to a nasal musical group, “Country band, for short?” is actually a reference to the group of countries known as THE UN
35A. My dad likes to call athletes who show off after making a big game “hot dogs”, so I had no trouble getting SHOW-BOATER as an entry for “Big hot dog?”
44A. Let’s mark this one as my favorite clue of the week. “Small Arms Runner of Years Past?” it looks like it should be someone who smuggled weapons in a bygone era, but it’s more of a hilarious hint for T-REX, a famous short-armed dinosaur.
53A. “Touchdown figs” does not refer to plays scored in football, but to times when planes land – ETAS.
12D. I didn’t know about the PICA composition unit, but Merriam Webster says it’s about a sixth of an inch unit containing 12 points – I guess that’s where the idea of a 12 point font comes from? Font nerds (I know you’re out there), help me in the comments, please!
35D. It’s a term I’ve only ever seen in crossword puzzles, so it might be useful to categorize it for future resolutions. “Term of Address in Colonial India” is the clue for SAHIB.
36D. “Pot seeds? is a pun clue for ANTES – it sounds like a reference to something someone growing marijuana at home might buy, but it’s more about the money that fuels the pot in a game of poker.
As I mentioned above, the theme of this puzzle “goes two ways” – it involves entries in the Across and Down positions. As 59A’s reveal explains, this puzzle involves “pulling a rabbit out of a hat, for example…which happens three times in this puzzle.”
The first time we see a bunny coming out of a hat in this puzzle is in the northwest corner, where the BRER bunny (in 5D) intersects with the word BEANIE in the BEANIE BABY entrance. The second bunny/hat crossing occurs in the east section of the puzzle, where the PETER bunny crosses SHOW-CANOTIER’S CANOTIER (a CANOTIER HAT is a flat-brimmed straw hat and a BEANIE is a loose knit beanie). Finally, in the western part of the grid, we have the ROGER rabbit crossing DERBY HORSE (a DERBY is another name for a bowler hat).
It’s not easy to build a grid around a series of cross-theme entries – this type of ambitious grid design necessarily constrains padding, but Mr. Koperwas and Mr. Chen have done an admirable job of keeping the filling as clean as possible within these constraints. . Kudos to the duo for pulling off this trick – now let’s hear about their collaboration experience.
Sam Koperwas: When our high school son was waiting for a friend to come by, we decided to take out the board. The horse goes like this, the castle (also known as the tower) goes like this… et cetera.
The friend walks in, sees me about to gesture, and says, “Wow! You can’t go there! You do that, then he goes here…” My son and I exchange a look. So that’s how you really play this game.
Anyway, after my first submissions to the NYT came back with polite but unencouraging rejections, I contacted Jeff Chen, who I was told might be willing to work with and to mentor a new builder. Luckily, after some trial and error – OK, lots of trial and error – voila, my puzzle is in The Times! Cool!
That said, don’t get involved with this guy…unless you want to learn how to really play the game. Making a clean, tight, nice puzzle — it’s a lot of work! And also extremely rewarding. So, with a nod to Jeff, I’ll gladly commit to this effort, and look forward to the next opportunity.
Jeff Chen: I love Sam’s dedication to Kaizen. Most builders spend almost 100% of their time developing their grid chops, but Sam also put some serious effort into his index. Many of today’s clever riffs are his. It’s a joy to open a set of clues he wrote and experience a delicious word game that’s new to me.
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