Substance, So to Speak – The New York Times


Jump to: | Today’s Theme | Tricky Clues

TUESDAY PUZZLE — In order to share how charmed I was by the answers in today’s grid, I have to share something else first: I’m Canadian, now living in the United States. Even though I’ve trained myself to check the weather in Fahrenheit and measure in inches, I still experience a pang of pride whenever Canadian terminology makes an appearance in a puzzle.

There are two such references in this crossword, which is brought to you by Grant Boroughs (his second for The New York Times). Its theme is simply delightful, and it requires only a willingness to pronounce things a little differently.

You might find today’s theme rather divisive. What I mean is that each themed entry might look like a single word, but it must be divided to satisfy the conditions of the clue. For example, 65A, “Neckwear reserved for fancy occasions?” The answer is SPECIALTIES, which might look odd until you realize it’s meant to be read as SPECIAL TIES.

Similar epiphanies occur in the other themed entries. At 26-Across, “Flute-playing Greek god makes an effort?” may make you realize that PAN TRIES; at 40-Across, the cooking directions in the clue are teaching you how to PREP PIES. I found 17-Across particularly absurd, but that made me smile. Here, smile along with me.

11A. Since “Ruler divs.” ends in an abbreviation, we know the fill should be an abbreviation, too. Rulers do show inches, but the correct answer is CMS, for centimeters. Score one for Canada with this metric measurement! (And minus one for my having to use the American spelling of the word when I explained it.)

38A. “Some skin-care products” takes a Latinate plural form for serum: SERA.

56A. In baseball-speak, a single bounce on a ground ball is referred to as ONE HOP. Coincidentally, that’s also how I request that my lightest beers be brewed.

69A. The “1960s folk quartet” in question is The MAMAS & the Papas. Both halves of this name would fit in the boxes, so I hope you lucked out with the right one — vagueness makes for great crossword clues!

1D. The correct fill here is TOQUE, a word with origins in French, Spanish and Arabic. It’s also Canadians’ preferred term for your basic winter hat, which some Americans tend to call a beanie. Canada is back on the board!

30D. Call me a prospector, because I’ve just mined some knowledge: A LODE is a veinlike deposit of ore that appears in fractured rock after tectonic activity.

41D. If you’re ever in France, it might help to learn to say A MOI. You can use it to call dibs on, well, whatever you need to call dibs on in France.

62D. “Climb” can be a noun or a verb, and so can its answer: RISE.

One night at a concert in high school, I went to the concession stand to get a soda. Looking at the hand-lettered menu on the wall, I confusedly asked what “special ties” were. (In my defense, the gap between the “L” and the “T” was quite excessive.) That very minor embarrassment survived in my memory long enough to become the basis for a crossword puzzle theme 20 years later.

I would have preferred to use some longer theme answers, but the pool of words that fit the formula was somewhat limited. I think short theme answers are more constraining on the grid structure than long ones, because all the fill is supposed to be shorter than the shortest theme entry in that same direction, which limits block placement options in the rest of the grid.

I liked having CAMPINESS and MOUSETRAP together, TAMPA on the OCEAN and PARSECS and INERTIA representing the science category in symmetrical spots. Special thanks to my mom, Metah Boroughs, for being my test solver!

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.”

Still feeling adrift? Subscribers can take a peek at the answer key.

Trying to navigate to the main Gameplay page? You can find it here.