April 19, 2024

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Countdown – New York Times

Countdown – New York Times

Jump to: Difficult evidence | today's subject

Sunday's Puzzle – “Hwang Kim Fu, of Washington, D.C., works in global public health,” Will Shortz wrote in his printed introduction to this network. “This is the 10th crossword he has written for the New York Times, which is appropriate given the subject matter!” — and his first Sunday him. He wanted a topic that took full advantage of the larger network, which led to this ambitious and impressive tangle. As a born-and-raised New Jerseyan, he hopes to excuse the solvers of 34-Down, which he's “probably more comfortable” with than most .

Once you have this grid down, take a step back and notice it as a whole. The skill used in its construction is impressive.

I tend to circle the Sunday puzzles a bit to let the topic focus on it, rather than focusing on it from the start. (It's like finally eating your favorite thing on a plate, which not everyone does, if you can believe it.) So I was the perfect customer for what Mr. Fu was selling here: a subtle, objective set of subtle messages suggesting that it's not just about sharing Not only the category, but they also follow a strict sequence as they work their way down the grid. When it clicked for me, it was a great aha moment.

You'll notice that the 10 leads, at 1-, 25-, 32-, 48-, 61-, 72-, 81-, 109-, 116-, and 121- below, simply consist of a hyphen. These are the only obvious components of the theme set. I imagine some analysts discovered their common theme by filling in one or two with cross-letters, but that has not been my experience.

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Instead, I found myself confused and confused by some seemingly unrelated entries. Firstly, in 24-Across, “It might help you keep up with your old classmates”, I received an ALUMNWS letter, which was a letter that I was not satisfied with. I'd accept the “graduate letter” here. I was pretty sure there was a 'W' even though it was from 11-Down, 'used by Edward Jenner when developing the world's first successful vaccine', which I knew was COWPOX. I enjoyed the idea of ​​exchanging letters here; The “U” for “W” had the potential for wordplay. And I filled in the letter “N” in ALUMNWS without thinking about the entry it starts with, which is 25-Down – it didn't even catch my eye.

Then, in 108-Across, “Anxiety at the End of a Space Odyssey,” I was blown away. I had an EAR__NTRY, which made me briefly think about the Eustachian tube and whether or not it was The astronauts' ears pop While “in the ear”.

But that was too far-fetched to be possible, and at this point I had reached 71-Across. I consider it the clearest example of a theme set because of how it is organized. The clue is “a little break”; I've got the first four letters, TAKE, in crosses, and the last square is also the first square of 72-Down. I had a few messages crossing out this entry and realized it was five, bringing an end to the idea I started at 71-Across. Start with TAKEF, end with IVE, and read on. Now, I had to take fiveor “a break for a bit,” and an idea of ​​what these hyphens might be.

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Going back to ALUMNWSLETTER, I immediately saw that if 25-Down had been a nine, I would have had the most logical alumninemessage. And if it was 109-down three, 108-over would be EARthreeNTRY.

It took me a while to realize that the odd numbers were all in this grid, represented by hyphens in the clues. It took another moment to process that these numbers appeared in order, from 10 to one, starting with 1-Down with TEN and ending with the next-to-last entry, 121-Down, with ONE. What a wonderful “countdown”, as the puzzle is aptly titled!

38 A. For a “certain porter,” I thought of ale, lager, ale—nothing suitable. The answer is a term for a railway porter who has It has been around since the nineteenth century,REDCAP.

7 d. This entry is a pun: “Would someone be interested in teaching you?” SALLIE MAE is a corporation created by Congress in 1972 The market is cornered on student loans (Check out those interest rates, and get a little angry.) This is your first time, and if you don't know it, you're either lucky or old or both.

10 D. I imagine manual typewriters and a stately old desk when I think of this outdated entry: “Piles in Publishing Houses” replaces SLUSH PILES. People used to mail manila folders containing manuscripts and self-addressed envelopes, unsolicited. Drilling through them was hazing Rituals for editorial assistantsBut you never know! The works of Martha Grimes and Tom Clancy, of all people, were slush pile finds.

36 D. “I landed in a licorice space in Candyland, for example,” is very specific trivia: when that happens to you while playing This board gameit means you lost a role.

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71 D. This evidence triggered a strange memory for me that seems to predate digital, perhaps from an ancient memory Fox Fire Magazine: “Birch bark and pine cones, for example,” makes me think of descriptions of toilets. (I think the pinecones were decorative, not practical.) The answer is also old-fashioned. They're TINDERS, to light a wood stove or something.

This grid was a bit of a teddy bear in construction in a way that was still relatively seamless but also seemed true to the conceit of the puzzle (i.e. progressing in order, in a way that would read naturally from left to right and top to bottom), given how all of the topic's answers were interconnected. in the end. So, to do this, some trade-offs were necessary, such as giving the solvers a shot at the top of the jump at 1-Down and having a less hidden version of the theme at 71-Across. I also apologize in advance to all French speakers – especially to my mother – for using the English, but grammatically incorrect, version of 80-Across. All that said, I was really happy with how the whole thing turned out and I hope you enjoy it!

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