NYT Crossword Answers: Bums, for example

THURSDAY PUZZLE – If you’re patient enough, builders usually go back to the fold.

Ashish Vengsarkar took a 10-year hiatus from writing crossword puzzles for The New York Times before publishing three of them last year. Narayan Venkatasubramanyan had two riddles in The Times – both collaborations with Mr Vengsarkar – but the last was in 2009. Good to have them back.

The theme of this puzzle can be hard to spot, and if you’re like me, you might have to squint at the grid to solve it. All I will say is, thank goodness for graphic designers – at least those who make sure that the pitfall this theme highlights doesn’t happen in their own projects.

1A. With “Tour de France” in the clue (“Tour de France stage”), I was pretty sure the answer would be in French. The crossword matching rule states that the answer to a clue in a foreign language must be in that same language. That’s why I thought the answer would be “step”, which means STAGE in French, but no: STAGE c’est.

31A. This is a good example of misdirection. On the surface, “Court org.” may seem like a clue to the legal system, but it is not. This clue is about tennis courts, and the answer is the USTA.

49A. I had to go through the alphabet for “leftover laundry”. With all but the second and third letters I tried ONE SOCK then OLD SOCK but neither worked. The answer is ODD SOCK.

30D. Because of the question mark, we know that “Caesar dressing?” it’s not about seasoning a salad. It’s about dressing a Roman emperor, and in this puzzle Caesar is wearing a TUNIC.

Have you ever looked at words that were hard to read because their letters weren’t spaced correctly? The art and practice of perfecting this spacing is called kerning or, as I will now call it, keming. Keming is not so much about equal spacing between letters, but about taking individual characters into account in order to make them readable and visually pleasing.

A common keming error occurs when an ‘r’ and an ‘n’ are placed so close together that the two letters read as if they were an ‘m’. We’ll do the opposite: we’ll separate the r’s and n’s of the words in the thematic clues so that the answer makes sense.

The telltale at 56A is “In Depth…or a clue to analyze some lowercase letters in four of the clues in this puzzle.” This means that we are going to have to study the clues carefully. I thought that was a good clue for the theme, but Mr. Vengsarkar and Mr. Venkatasubramanyan offer more: the answer to this telling clue is the phrase FROM STEM TO STERN – that is, from a “m” to an “rn”. Not only that, but three of the letters in the entry are circled, and they just happen to be M, R, and N.

You don’t see it yet? Let’s take a look at “Homer’s self-satisfied assertion? from 17A: I’m sure there are plenty of self-satisfied assertions that Homer Simpson could make. Anyway, I don’t see any quotes from the ancient Greek poet Homer online. You may have gotten the answer, WHAT A GOOD BOY AM I, from railroad crossings. Or you may be very confused. Which Homer are we talking about?

If we follow the manufacturers’ instructions – always a good decision – we will have to analyze this index differently. What if we discard Homer’s “m” to get Horner, as in Little Jack Horner? It would make a lot more sense.

Need help with the rest of the theme? Click on the clues below to see the answers.

Narayan Venkatasubramanyan: For more than a decade, I lived the life of a near-single Native American father in Texas with a Chinese stepmother. (No, it’s not a failed sitcom pilot!)

Shortly after he moved in, I was banned from the kitchen. I was happy to oblige because she was a brilliant cook who quickly learned to accommodate my Indian tastes and vegetarian restrictions.

His English wasn’t very good, but it was much better than my Mandarin, so it became our interrupted means of communication.

One day she offered to make “quiet” soup for dinner. I had no idea what that meant, but I figured it must be good. And yet, even after the soup was served, I couldn’t see what made her – or me – “calm.” After a few more examples, I realized she was actually saying “com”, not “calm”. Of course, that makes even less sense.

She was intrigued by my questions about the contents of the soup, so she brought me a com box. That’s where it hit me: Between her poor command of the language, her less than perfect eyesight, and her poor kerning on the box label, she had misinterpreted “corn” as “com.”

And a therne was born! I shared this theme with Ashish, and we came up with possibilities like “burn” for “tramp”, “harvest” for “player”, etc. Once we had enough material for a puzzle, Ashish offered some shine for the revealer: FROM STEM TO STERN offered a clean way to tie it all together.

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 “How to Make a Crossword Puzzle” series.

Resolution almost done but need a bit more help? We have what you need.

Warning: there are spoilers ahead, but subscribers can take a look at the answer key.

Trying to return to the puzzle page? Right here.

Your thoughts?

Lucas E. Kelly