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Monday Mystery – Congratulations to Sam Cuprows and Jeff Chen on this beautiful Monday collaboration. This is Mr. Cupruas’ second mystery in The New York Times, after his first appearance in July, which was also a collaboration with Mr. Chen. For Mr. Chen, this is his 141st New York Times crossword puzzle and his 96th collaboration.
The subject matter of this puzzle had me cheeky to the very end – an impressive feat to kick off Monday. Monday’s puzzles are usually the easiest of the week. Today’s puzzle is no exception in terms of difficulty, but the topic has eluded me all the time (more on that below).
And since the clues in Monday’s mysteries are usually very obvious, there aren’t many clues that require interpretation today. Here are just a few of the solutions that may be causing your new or younger ones:
41a. The letter before “cue” is PEE — this is a type of key we see a lot, where the entry is the phonetic spelling of a letter of the alphabet. Cue, of course, is Q, and PEE is P.
7 d. Assignees who are too young to bank may not know that debt pay-off swaps are “bank offers, for short.” No, banks don’t (usually) sell CDs. bank cd isCertificate of depositIt is a type of savings account.
34 d. “Singer Susan, and her name is a star” is a VEGA key. Please enjoy the a cappella version of Suzanne Vega’s song “Tom’s Diner”:
52 d. The only question mark key in today’s puzzle is “Professional pitcher, of some kind?” , which looks like it should be about a baseball player but is actually about an AD REP, who is a professional at promoting products through ads.
This puzzle features four topic entries and a reveal explaining their connection. I will admit that while I was solving, I couldn’t guess the topic for the rest of my life. The entries appeared to be completely unrelated, but the detector opened them up in a satisfactory manner.
The first entry topic is PRIME RIB (“Quality Cut of Beef”). I had a hunch that “PRIME” would be the objective half of the guide, given the many possible meanings of the word. But when I got to the subject of the second entry, move the needle (“make a noticeable impact, so to speak”), I started to have some doubts. “What do PRIME and MOVE have in common?” I wonder.
By entering the third theme, WHIZ KID (“Youth Phenomenon”), I was completely overboard. “None of those words seem relevant!” my inner voice insisted. By entering the fourth topic, TAKEN FOR AIDE (“Bamboozled”), I was feeling completely fooling myself.
Then the detector put it all together: MOCKTAIL (“non-alcoholic mixed drink…or hint at the synonyms at the ends of 16, 24, 37, and 51 across”). AHA! Every topic entry ends with (or contains TAIL) which is synonymous with MOCK: RIB, NEEDLE, KID, and RIDE are all cleverly hidden inside phrases whose meanings are completely different from MOCK.
This is a stylish theme pack and beautiful reveal. Let’s hear from Mr. Cupruas and Mr. Chen.
Sam Cuprows: I was writing novels. Hours and hours each day, sitting in front of a computer, jotting down words, so when it became apparent that I was past my expiration date in the field, the build seemed a perfect fit for my skill set, albeit an odd one. . And I’ve done a bunch of them now—they’re all co-created with Jeff Chen, who I see as the Ted Lasso of crossword puzzles (knowledgeable, supportive, encouraging)—but the “mocktails” were an especially valuable learning lesson: The solution should be a fun, enjoyable experience. ! Challenging, sure, but not hypocritical, forget the grunt—keep it light, clean, and ultimately satisfying. Which day of the week we aim for, is not an easy task. I hope we have achieved it here.
As a side note, how relevant is seeing that one of the entries [Top-selling Girl Scout cookies]. It’s that time of year, after all, and there are four boxes of these in the freezer and another in… wait, make that half of the box… nope, sorry. Hey, did you know you can also eat them frozen? Anyway, my wife scrolls through this crossword puzzle every day, and it’s the first one that piqued my interest. The next big challenge for me is to one day beat it in solution. or in tennis. or pickled. scribble. Ping pong …
Jeff Chen: For some reason, I crave Mutton Rogan Josh.
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