Thursday’s Mystery – This is Drew Schminer’s fourth crossword puzzle in The New York Times, and I think he’s slowly trying to take the course. In crossword terms, a creator with a bat for the course has posted a puzzle at least once on each weekday. Mr. Schmenner’s first three crossword puzzles ran on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and this puzzle is his first network on Thursdays.
And he’s a doozy. I may need a nap after this is resolved.
A few things happened to me when I was going around this puzzle, other than the fact that it has more than its share of Z’s, and they helped unlock the theme for me:
1. All these Z represent sleep, which is explained in the statement at 59A: SLEEPING CAR.
2. “Vehicle” parts are made-up cars hidden in the feature entries.
3. The number of Z’s in each subject entry represents the number of characters in each car.
4. Mystery is not rebellion, for which we can all feel deep gratitude.
Instead, we substitute characters in order to complete a topic entry. For example, at 17a, the answer to “worth discussing, as an issue,” as written in the net, is UPZZZEBATE, which made me think of the static one hears when tuning in to a radio station for some reason.
But we are not done. There are four letters Z, which means that the car we need has four letters. I can put you in a FORD today, if you can make a 75 percent down payment. I’m sorry, I got carried away. We need to replace the FORD with a Z, which is what gives us UP strongholdEBATE.
I thought that concept was really clever, once I got it right, and had fun solving the rest of Mr. Schminer’s puzzle. If you’d like help with other Z-laden entries – or just want to cut to the chase – please click any of the links below to see the answers.
8a. On Thursdays, the challenge is not to go with the first answer that pops into your head. This is for the first week’s puzzles, which is what I mean when I say they are more straightforward. When wordplay picks up in the middle of the week, we have to put aside our first instincts and think about the second meaning of that jumble of words we call a clue. My first thoughts were about “something you might pick up at a restaurant,” say, about takeaway meals or a check, but this guide doesn’t refer to either. As you enter or pass a restaurant, pick up an AROMA.
45 a. The initial, LST, stands for “landing ship, tankHe refers to one of the naval vessels that were used in World War II.
62a. The slang term for ZIP is “goose egg”.
66a. This is a language guide, which means that the answer must be in the language (other than English) used in the guide. “Numero of African countries where Spanish is an official language” is UNO, and this country is Equatorial Guinea.
4 d. This is a fun one. My first thought about “The Highball Show?” is that it refers to hiring a person at the highest possible rate which, as far as I know, does not exist, and my second thought was about the cocktail, which was correct. The answer is SIP. I say, make your own.
32 d. Note that the Q in “Peaceful Quaker” is lowercase, so the answer has nothing to do with the name of the religious group. This “Quaker” is a quivering aspen.
50 d. I had to search for the answer to “Jump on board?” Because I’m not up to date with my ski terminology. OLLIE is a trick that involves jumping straight up while keeping your feet attached to the skateboard (i.e assumption It includes superglue) and land on said plank as if nothing contrary to the laws of physics had just happened.
I hope this puzzle will be less difficult to solve than trying to fall asleep on a train (or in a car or on a plane, for that matter). Thanks to Matthew Stock, Master Sivakumar and their puzzle from early 2021 for inspiring today’s theme. I briefly considered using the SLEEPING BAG detector and converting the BAG to ZZZ, but once I realized there were enough answers to the topic for using a SLEEPING CAR, I put the pedal to the metal and got to work.
There were some speed bumps along the way. The editorial team approved the puzzle with the caveat that I need to revise the packaging. I had to accept some trade-offs because I was using the second highest number of Z on a weekday puzzle in the Shortz era – Record 18! – so I couldn’t avoid some crosswords, like LST. My initial grid had all of the topic answers laid out horizontally, but to reduce questionable fill, I had to change my approach and place two of the topic answers vertically. Fortunately, this tactic worked, and I was finally able to solve the mystery.
Fearless Fridays: About the Easy Mode newsletter
Puzzle Editor Christina Iverson will be sending out a weekly puzzle on Friday with more crossword clues accessible straight to your inbox, if you sign up for the Easy Mode newsletter. This extra bit of goodness is for those who want to experience Friday’s mysteries but have heard all about how powerful they are.
If you solved puzzles at the start of the week but feel like you don’t have the experience to get going, think of the newsletter as a set of training wheels in the shape of a cross. Use the Easy Mode guides until you don’t need them anymore, then tell a struggling friend, like yourself, how you beat Fridays. Maybe they can benefit from this newsletter too.
You can have a look at the difference between normal and easy mode guides below. The links are a small sample of the key numbers from the Friday puzzle. When you click on it, you will see both the version that will play the puzzle and the easier version.
(Warning: Here are spoilers for Friday’s mysteries.)
Not that difficult, is it? You can definitely solve Friday’s mysteries. You may just need some training before you conquer them on your own.
To subscribe to the Easy Mode newsletter, click the link here.
Want to submit a crossword puzzle to the New York Times?
The New York Times Crossword has an open submission system, and you can submit puzzles online.
For tips on how to get started, read our How to Make a Crossword Puzzle series.