THURSDAY PUZZLE — By the time some constructors make their New York Times Crossword debuts, they are not necessarily neophytes. There are so many potential venues in which they can be published that a puzzle maker may find fairly regular work without ever appearing in this newspaper.
That’s a good thing, although it’s still quite a trip to see your byline in the New York Times Crossword. The path to being published is different now for creators in all fields, thanks to the internet. In the world of indie crossword puzzles specifically, neophyte constructors have better access to venues that may not have the kind of slush piles and wait times that The Times has. In a smaller venue, these same constructors can receive one-on-one guidance with more experienced puzzle makers.
All of this is to say that Quiara Vasquez, who shares today’s byline with Dan Ziring, is not a neophyte. Ms. Vasquez works as a crossword editor for AVCX puzzles, and has recently added a spot as editor of puzzles at Crucinova to her résumé. This is, however, her New York Times Crossword debut, so please welcome her.
Mr. Ziring made his debut here last June with a puzzle that might have appeared somewhat truncated to solvers. At least this time he and Ms. Vasquez are going in the opposite direction.
24A. Please don’t fiddle with your radio PRESETS while driving. That is the answer to the clue “Things you might save while driving,” and I truly hope that you set and save them while the car is parked.
31A. Ah, here’s the clever misdirection that we crave on Thursdays. The “leaves” in “Leaves in the kitchen” is not a verb. It’s a noun and, in this recipe, we are using BASIL leaves.
51A. The clue “Name hidden in ‘oleomargarine’” may seem fairly random to you, especially since there are some OMARs who would make great clues, but here’s some perspective: OMAR has appeared in the New York Times Crossword 844 times as of this writing, and I can see the constructors and editors desperately trying to find a fresh way to describe the name. If that means hiding it in oleomargarine, more power to them.
23D. The phrase “Put a fork in it!” is a way of saying that someone is done with something (the entire colloquialism is “Stick a fork in it, I’m done!”). This type of clue is asking solvers to think of a word that can be a substitute for “it.” In this puzzle, the fork is a pitchfork, and the answer is HAY.
It’s Thursday, and you know what that sometimes means: We have a rebus element in the grid. For those who are just starting to solve Thursday crossword puzzles, a rebus is when more than one letter must be written into a single square in order for the answer to fit. As always, here is how to do that if you are solving on a device that is not made of tree pulp.
Mr. Ziring and Ms. Vasquez offer three theme entries at 1A, 10A and 54A that represent the SNOWBALL EFFECT, which is the revealer at 33A. All three theme entries are clued as “Gradually develop, literally.” The idea is that, as you read across, the entry starts with the first letter, and each subsequent square adds a letter on to make it “develop.”
I realized what was going on at 3D. I knew that the answer to “Punished for the weekend, perhaps” was GROUNDED, but I couldn’t fit the eight-letter word into the six-letter slot. That meant that I needed to squeeze some of the letters into a single square. I wasn’t quite at the point where I knew which letters should be squeezed in, so I looked around and found another rebus right next to it: The answer to 2D was GRANARY and the GR was the rebus. Once I saw the progression from GR to GRO, I knew I needed to “develop” the word GROW across 1A.
Dan Ziring: This puzzle was inspired by something that neither of us remember at this point. I was playing around with building some Thursday-style puzzles and especially liked this idea, but was having trouble figuring out a way to execute it cleanly. Quiara had given me a generous amount of feedback on prior puzzles on the “Crossword” Discord channel, so I was extremely grateful to collaborate more closely on this one to bring it to fruition. Hopefully you enjoy it — or for those that dislike rebus puzzles, at least the majority of the squares only have one letter in them.
As an aside, I’m happy the clue for 1-Down was kept, as that was a small homage to my grandfather’s family name. He liked orange circus peanuts and disliked crosswords.
Quiara Vasquez: How exciting to finally make my New York Times Crossword debut! I love Dan and love the back-and-forth that comes with collaborating on a grid. I’m also grateful to Crosscord for facilitating the collaboration process.
Reader, if you have a puzzle idea where the execution eludes you, reach out to me there — especially if you’re one of my fellow under-30s/ladies/ “ethnics.” So many great puzzles these days begin as a DM starting, “OK this is stupid, but …”
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