WEDNESDAY PUZZLE — What luck! We have a Kate Hawkins puzzle that will get us through Wednesday. This is Ms. Hawkins’s ninth appearance in the New York Times Crossword and her fourth on a Wednesday. I always enjoy the voice and personality that Ms. Hawkins brings to her puzzles, and today’s is no exception.
Today’s puzzle contains a most unusual clue at 63D, one that led me to reflect on tips for solvers who are missing letters in their grid. Whenever I don’t know a proper noun, or when I am simply struggling to figure out a word, my favorite strategy is to take what I call the“Wheel of Fortune” approach. This involves looking at the blank squares in a mysterious entry and trying to figure out if the missing letters are consonants or if I’ll need to buy a vowel (and, if I do need to buy a vowel, whether or not I’ll be able to get Wordplay’s lead columnist, Deb Amlen, to spot me a few dollars).
Once you know if those letters are consonants or vowels you can make educated guesses. For instance, let’s say I have no idea of the name of the 46th president of the United States, but I do have a few letters from the crosses: B_DE_. I can guess that the letter between B and D will be a vowel and that the letter after E will be consonant. I can now start plugging in my guesses using a technique I call “replacement”. “running the alphabet,”to see if I can locate a letter which appears to work with each blank’s crossing entry.
This approach won’t always work, of course, and when it doesn’t, you may need to turn to your favorite search engine — which brings me to the first tough-ish clue of the day.
1A. The “Word before bar or party”SEARCH is a shorthand for Search, such as the SEARCH bar at top of any internet browser or a party that might go out looking for lost hikers.
36A. “When you’re on it, you’re en pointe”It is a great clue to TOE. The word “it” refers to the entry itself — as in, “When you’re on TOE, you’re en pointe,” just like a ballet dancer.
1D. I couldn’t think of a “Q preceder, in song” that wasn’t “Avenue,” but the answer turns out to be SUZIE, from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s song “Suzie Q”:
3D. Typically, when we speak about the creation jobs, we refer to the economy. However, in this instance, the “Jobs creation”APPLE, which Steve Jobs cofounded in 1976, is another example.
31D. Here’s another instance in which the clue refers to the entry directly, this time with the word “they.” “They can be sculpted and chiseled”This is the clue to ABS, which, if they’re pronounced, might also be called “sculpted”Or “chiseled.”
35D. 35D. “Wine vessel”Wine cask. It has appeared 148 time in the New York Times Crossword. However, it has only been 28 times since Will Shortz was appointed crossword editor in 1994.
46D. “Azerbaijan or Lithuania, once: Abbr.”This clue will reveal a second piece of crossword glue that is used more inside crosswords then outside. SSR stands for Soviet Socialist Republics.
51D. 51D. “[waves hand in a circle].”Those are signs that the clue may be a bit of nonverbal communications. In this instance, the answer is ETC. To see the effect, I had to move my hand in a circular motion.
63D. 63D. “Missing letters in ‘transgre_s_o_,’ appropriately.”The clue’s missing word is clearly evident “transgression,”The missing letters signify a synonym: SIN.
This puzzle has four theme entries, and a revealer that ties the puzzle together (see what?). This revealer is FIND CLOSEURE (61A) “Accept and let go of something … or a hint to the starts of the answers to the starred clues”). The revealer suggests that each of the starred themes entries begins with a word that describes a type or closure, such as one you might find on clothing.
At 17A, the first is ZIPPER MERGE.“Drivers’ process when two lanes of traffic become one”). Although there is no ZIPPER, a ZIPPER MERGE point allows cars from two lanes to alternate in a ZIPPER-like fashion. fashionThey merge into one lane. SNAPDRAGON (26A) is the second theme entry. “Garden plant that opens and shuts its ‘mouth’ when squeezed”). The SNAPDRAGON has always been a favorite of mine, mostly because it’s just so fun to squeeze the petals and pretend the flower is a puppet. A SNAP is also a type of closure, just like ZIPPER.
These are the last two theme entries. Each starts with the name and type of closure. This is a cute theme with a fantastic revealer — FIND CLOSURE is such a rich phrase, and it’s a debut to boot! And, as Ms. Hawkins notes below, it’s not the only debut in this puzzle. Read on to learn about Kate’s suggested extracurricular activities:
If you’re looking for some bonus fun after solving this puzzle, might I recommend guessing in what year each of these featured fasteners was invented? You might also enjoy perusing their respective Wikipedia entries: I didn’t know about the connection between snaps and Western wear, nor did I realize I had 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.
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