WEDNESDAY PUZZLE — The important thing to bear in mind when solving a crossword puzzle like this one by Nancy Stark and Will Nediger is that words can have multiple meanings. Constructors might think about a phrase that has one meaning, and then repurpose it so it has a completely different meaning that still makes sense.
We’ll get to that, but first I wanted to wish those who are celebrating a very happy Pride month. For those who would like to celebrate by doing even more puzzles, I’m told that there is a new puzzle pack in the Crossword app that explores LGBTQ+ lives and culture, and these puzzles were made by a terrific group of LGBTQ+ constructors. For the month of June, the cost of the 20 9×9 puzzles is 99 cents, and you can find it by clicking on the “Packs” tab in the app.
16A: On the surface, the clue “Top of an outfit, for short?” sounds as if it is referring to an item of clothing, but with that question mark, we need to think about other meanings of the word “outfit.” Another meaning would be a business, and the “top” of a business would be the CEO.
61A: “Clog or pump” had me thinking about plumbing, but that’s not where this clue is going. They are types of SHOEs.
1D: “Light amount?” sounds like a small amount, but in this case we are supposed to be thinking of amounts of light. The answer is WATT. (Yes, WATT is the answer. Third base.)
8D: Remember, if the clue is in a foreign language, the answer has to be in that same language. The answer to the Spanish-inflected “Adán’s mate in la Biblia” is EVA, the Spanish version of Eve.
42D: A fresh and interesting clue for the entry ISRAEL: TIL that the country has the highest number of museums per capita.
46D: I had DICES for a long time, until I realized that there was no artist (that I know of) called VEDMEER. The answer to the clue “Chops finely” is RICES.
The subjects of Ms. Stark’s and Mr. Nediger’s theme are vanishing on us. Each of the three theme entries is the name of a film in which the titular character disappears in some way.
Our constructors hint at what’s going on in the revealer at 53A, where the answer to the clue “Amorality … as suggested by 17-, 25- and 41-Across?” is LACK OF CHARACTER.
If you were to describe someone as having a LACK OF CHARACTER, it would not be a compliment, but here’s where the repurposing that I spoke of comes in. Ms. Stark and Mr. Nediger took that phrase and based their theme around films that are missing or lacking a character in some way.
For example, at 17A, the answer to the clue “1938 Alfred Hitchcock mystery” is THE LADY VANISHES. Similarly, at 25A, the clue “1999 Garry Marshall comedy” hints at the film RUNAWAY BRIDE.
Nancy Stark: Remember me? I’m the co-constructor of the March 14, 2019 New York Times “Black Hat” puzzle, created with the very talented, versatile and delightful-to-work-with Will Nediger, cruciverbalist extraordinaire. We’re back together again for this latest collaboration — with him once again entirely in charge of the always-challenging and difficult grid-making and with me happy to have been able to come up a theme that inspired him to want to do so.
Last time I, tennis player that I am, compared myself to Peter Fleming playing doubles with the great John McEnroe. (“The best doubles team in the world? McEnroe and anyone,” said Fleming.) Since that went over the heads of many readers unfamiliar with tennis, I’m choosing a different analogy: Creating a puzzle with Will Nediger is like dancing with the great Fred Astaire. Never mind Ginger and Cyd; Fred could make the broom look good.
As for me: I’m a former editor of the Literary Guild; the author of “Upward Nobility,” a corporate satire published in 1979 under the pseudonym “Addison Steele”; an alum of the Advanced BMI Composers and Lyricists Workshop; and a lyricist whose songs have been performed in New York City cabarets but not, alas, on a Broadway stage near you. Some of my theater songs are online on the composer David Delaney’s website. Google Mr. Delaney+ me + DOWAGER HEIGHTS and you just might find it.
[Listen to a number from “Dowager Heights” and see if you can spot Ms. Stark.]
This is my second puzzle to be published in The New York Times. Will has many, many more.
Will Nediger: Last time, I was one of the people who didn’t know enough about tennis to appreciate Nancy’s McEnroe/Fleming analogy. I’m glad she chose a Fred Astaire analogy this time, because it’s much more in my wheelhouse, but also because it gives me an opportunity to remind her that Ginger Rogers did everything Astaire did, but backward and in high heels.
The Tipping Point
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