PUZZLE MONDAY – Today’s puzzle is a debut from Stephen Hiltner, editor and photojournalist here at The Times. Mr. Hiltner may be the 19th builder to debut in 2022, but he’s certainly the first Times employee I’ve seen to debut a crossword during my own (admittedly brief) tenure here. He very kindly contributed the photo at the top of this column, so you can probably understand my bewilderment that someone could be so talented in such different areas as crossword puzzle building and photography. I recommend checking out the photojournalism projects linked in Mr. Hiltner’s notes below.
I’ve always been intrigued by the overlap between artistry and crossword construction. Many builders, for example, have incredible musical talents and are virtuosos composition Where play instruments Where musical theater director performances. Others, like Mr. Hiltner, excel in the visual arts. What is the nature of the relationship between artistry and crossword construction? Maybe it’s about being able to think outside the box, so to speak – it would make sense that creativity in art and creativity in crosswords are related, in some way.
And of course, some people think crossword puzzle building is itself an art form – many builders put their voices and perspectives into that neat 15×15 square we see every day, using creative and clever clues to give it life. I like this interpretation of construction as art, not only because it allows me to claim a modicum of artistry, but also because it recognizes that human-made puzzles have something that machine-generated supermarket crossword books don’t. That there’s a little piece of the builder’s self that inhabits the puzzle and brings it to life certainly feels like art to me.
But that’s enough art and crossword thinking for one day. Let’s look at these clues!
There are very few tricky hints today, for reasons I explain below, but here are three for you:
21A. “Plural suffix with good, hood, and food” is a fun clue for an uncommon crossword filler: -IES is the suffix you can add to each of these words to create goodIES, hoodIES, and foodIES.
40A. Ahh, the old standby time zone. Indices of the form “X hrs. en Y”, where X is a time of year and Y a place, are indeed common. Today’s variation is “Winter hrs. in St. Louis” for CST, short for Central Standard Time. (If it were “daylight saving time,” it would be CDT, for Central Daylight Time) .
30D. I hope I’m not the only person who confidently added “Pinky” as “Brain’s counterpart” as a nod to the 90s cartoon “Pinky and the Brain”. But, alas, the answer was actually BRAOWN, as in “Brains and BRAOWN”.
This puzzle highlights a series of famous TV neighbors, culminating in perhaps the most famous TV neighbor of all, FRED ROGERS (“Past TV Host with a Famous ‘Neighborhood'”). I’ll admit I’m not the biggest TV fan, so I didn’t know two of the other three TV neighbors, but I imagine that experience wasn’t universal.
The neighbor I knew was STEVE URKEL (“Neighbor on ‘Family Matters'”), although I don’t think I ever did seen an episode of “Family Matters”. I still know his catchphrase – “Did I do that?” — a little anecdote that didn’t help me solve the rest of the puzzle but that I still liked to recall.
The other two neighbors were a mystery to me (“Neighbor on ‘Full House'” and “Neighbor on ‘Home Improvement'”), but that didn’t hinder my resolution – KIMMY GIBBLER and WILSON WILSON are both fully accessible since the bottom of the clues that intersect their names, so no harm, no fault. Indeed, as with last week’s riddle about women who won the Nobel Prize, the crosses were all eminently fair to accommodate the fact that some solvers just wouldn’t know, or just couldn’t guess , the names of TV neighbors. This strategy of minimizing the number of proper nouns and tricky clues running through theme entries to maximize their “accessibility” is one that builders and publishers often use for noun-based puzzles.
Congratulations to Mr. Hiltner on this debut. We look forward to seeing many more puzzles from you!
Hello, crossword world! This is my confusing debut, so I’m new to this section – but not to The Times. My daily work is done in the travel office, where I work as an editor and photojournalist.
Most of my travel stories are about arduous journeys to faraway places – like this one about the Everglades and this one about Scotland. This puzzle is for a different audience though: the longer you’ve parked in front of your TV, the better you’ll do.
The funny thing about this theme is that, as a kid growing up in the 1990s, I wasn’t allowed to watch much television. My parents were pretty strict about it. So I guess this puzzle is a belated form of protest – or a form of recovery.
Initially, I tried to incorporate thematic responses from a wider range of television stories, including GLADYS KRAVITZ and BARNEY RUBBLE, among others. But in the end I preferred the idea of sticking to the shows that were popular (and on the air) during my childhood.
I hope you will enjoy it!
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The tipping point
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