NYTimes Crossword Answer: “Absolutely, in slang”
The rest of these Across entries solve well-known terms and products, although a percentage of solvers may know either the mixed drink or the antiquated reference book, but not both. These answers add up to a pretty satisfying theme on its own, but at some point I wondered about a second layer of theme in the Down entries – it’s great, and took a long time to sink in in the skull of this poor solver.
Watch 27-Down: “Losing Your Spark, As a Relationship”, which resolves to STALE. STALE as a verb sounds stuffy but doable, and I didn’t blink once. Now watch 37-Down, “‘It’s a Touchy Subject,'” which simply resolves to DON’T. Again, I read it. I didn’t realize this added dimension until I reached 35-Down, “Thrilling”, entered HEART and realized that my job wasn’t done. The full answer includes the red light just below this entry, as well as the entry below this, the answer to 73-Down. Lo and behold, this hint, again, is just a “-“, and it resolves to PING, which I completely filled in crosses. PING? This is the end of an expression for “Thrilling”, or HEART STOPPING, because 🔴 means stop, of course.
So going back, STALE is actually GO DEPRECATED because of the 🟢 directly above this entry, and 37-Down becomes DON’T 🟢 THERE, where THERE fills in 71-Down, another clue that reads “-“. This double meaning is something we have seen in many rebuses, much to the annoyance of many solvers; I found having them already there, and then discovering each use, was really fresh and delicious.
What about the 43-Down: “‘It’s my turn’ [or] Comment after the ramble,” which crosses the 🟡 in the center of the grid and continues into 72-Down? This solves I’LL 🟡 NOW. Honestly, I had no idea what to think of this until I read Mr. Newton’s notes, below, and realized this answer was tailor-made – (shout out to one) STOP and GO (like heck) both work. It’s like a little free association test for your driving habits!
To me, those three circles stacked on top of a traffic light seemed like a perfect visual to appear in a crossword puzzle. Satisfying Concept Clicked: Answers in one direction might include RED Where GREENwhile their crossings could include STOP Where GO.
My first strategy was to drop traffic lights into a sea of white squares, with unlit traffic lights representing empty answer boxes, ignored by horizontal cruisers. In the end, this design seemed too unintuitive to be understood by a solver. A stronger strategy has been to use a traffic light as a triple stack of blocking squares, with the unlit squares of the traffic light behaving like traditional blockers, while its RED Where GREEN the square joins a light-crossing response.
In my submission to The Times, I listed the word on the right side of an illuminated traffic square as a separate answer with a wrong clue: [Money makers] for MINT in WINTER (GREEN) MINT, for example. The idea was that this would help hide which light is colorized, allowing the solver to “illuminate” the signal. However, I appreciate how the Times team pivoted to a simpler approach of starting the grid with the signals on. This helps establish the color rebus from the jump, giving the solver an early boost while leaving the fun GO/STOP twist to discover. Hoping that this configuration offers a satisfactory solution!
The choice to include a yellow light was made halfway through construction. I knew from the start that this puzzle theme seemed incomplete without it, but what YELLOW represents is not as clear as RED Where GREEN. So I proceeded without it, until I realized that yellow represents both GO and STOP could be a fun twist. It produced a kind of Schrödinger’s answer, giving the solver a choice between “brake” or “floor”.
Favorite first answer in this puzzle? DEAD, of course! Fingers crossed, this puzzle will drive you crazy.
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