PUZZLE MONDAY – Congratulations to Rachel Simon, who makes her construction debut in the New York Times Crossword today. When I saw her signature I immediately went to check how many other Rachels had published crossword puzzles in The Times, and I am happy to welcome Ms Simon to the elite club which until today , only included me and Rachel Maddow.
I loved reading in Ms. Simon’s notes that her early days were helped, in part, by the mentorship of beloved veteran builder Robyn Weintraub. The support that the established builder community shows to aspiring new crossword puzzlers is a thing of beauty that has helped broaden and diversify the build base. So, to all the crossword builders who have ever helped a newcomer polish a theme, fill in a tricky corner, or hone their clue writing skills: in the words of 49D, I am I will never abandon you.
57A. The index “Bees: Prefix” refers to API, which is the prefix of words such as APIculture (the raising of bees), APIary (a place where bees are kept) and APItherapy (the use of bee products as alternative medicine – Today I learned!).
61A. “Young Australian Woman” is the clue for SHEILA. There is some debate about the origins of this piece of Australian slang, and it seems that it can be seen as a pejorative term. Today I learned two things!
64A. Clues that have ellipses in the middle, as we see in the “Something to shoot…or shoot at” clue give you not one but of them clues for entry. In this case, a GOAL is both something to aim for for and something to shoot to.
69A. There is a slight misdirection here on the “record holder” index, which seems to indicate a person who holds a statistical record. Instead, we’re looking for the case that holds a record you might play on a turntable, which is a SLEEVE.
26D. I think the clue “The yellow is not on them, but in them” is supposed to play on the phrase “the joke is on them!”, but because I pronounce the “l” in “yellow”, this rhyming pun didn’t totally click for me. Anyway, the index notes that the yolks are not on EGGS maize in them.
This puzzle features a simple theme type we’ve come to know and love as a Monday staple: “words that may follow or precede X.” In this case, X is given to us in the revealing PICKUP (“Learning, like a new skill…or what may precede the endings of 20-, 36-, 42-, and 59-Across”). The four topic entries are two-word phrases, the second word of which could follow PICKUP in another common phrase.
The first of these, at 20A, is FAULT LINES (“Earthquakes happen around them”). As the developer indicates, PICKUP may precede LINES in the common phrase PICKUP LINES. This same mechanism also works for the other three theme entries. My favorite of the set is VIDEO GAMES at 36A (“Fortnite and The Legend of Zelda, for two”), which gives the expression PICKUP GAMES when the theme is applied (PICKUP GAMES are informal, spontaneous sports competitions).
This is a tidy thematic set of four fun and easily recognizable phrases that generate another four great phrases with the revealer, which is also included. What more could you ask for on a Monday? Congratulations to Ms. Simon on this debut — we look forward to your next puzzle!
I’m Rachel, a writer, editor, and writing teacher based in Raleigh, NC. I’ve always loved solving crossword puzzles, but only started building them in the spring of 2020 when I decided to teach myself to do it as a new hobby during the early days of the pandemic. At first I was just focused on creating custom crossword puzzles for family and friends (which I do now as a business!), but later I started experimenting with themed puzzles under the guidance useful from my native neighbor (and frequents New York). Time puzzle builder) Robyn Weintraub.
This puzzle not only marks my debut for The Times, but also my first puzzle published anywhere! I had been thinking about themes involving two-part words, and “PICKUP” just felt like it had so much potential. I found the four topic answers fairly quickly, editing them slightly with Robyn’s help to make sure they were all clear, commonly used phrases that solvers would recognize. Once the time said yes, it’s had a few rounds of tweaks to fix some tricky corners of the grille, and I’m so thrilled with the result! I hope you all enjoy solving them and this is the first of many puzzles I’m building for the Times.
Want to submit a crossword puzzle to The New York Times?
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The tipping point
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