daily crossword column
Joe Deeney puts us on the spot in his second New York Times Crossword.
TUESDAY PUZZLE — When we last saw Joe Deeney, he was messing with our calendar, but today he’s back to convince us that we have spots before our eyes.
Fortunately, that’s a hint, not a spoiler and, at least in this puzzle, not a serious condition that requires medical attention.
40A: Foreign language in a clue, foreign language in the answer. Also, abbreviation in the clue, abbreviation in the answer. So “Lengua de Mex.” would be ESP (the abbreviation) for Español (the Spanish word for the Spanish language).
42A: SAT flashback! In an analogy, a colon, or “:” replaces the phrase “IS TO.” An example of this would be “bees : hive :: bears : den.”
2D: Hi, kids! Back before we sent messages by tapping on the glass of a smartphone, older telephones (the thing you use to share memes with your friends also works to make voice calls to other people) had rotary dials.
These dials required you to stick the tip of your index finger into a hole in the dial matching the number you wanted and use that finger to rotate the entire dial around to a stopping point. Then you would simply sit and watch as the dial took about five minutes to rotate back to its original position (we had a lot more time in those days because Netflix hadn’t been invented yet). If the person you were calling had a lot of nines in their number, you could occasionally dislocate your distal phalanx.
So the next time your parents make a dad joke about injuring your thumbs because you’re “texting all the time, ” ask them how their rotary dialing fingers are doing.
11D: I had KORAN before QURAN, until I realized that 15A was ABUT and, with the U, the first letter had to be a Q.
25D: Nice wordplay. “Small complication?” isn’t a minor issue, it’s a problem, but since we’re supposed to focus on the word “small, ” we’re going to reduce it to a PROB.
47D: “High point in the Old Testament?” isn’t calling for a curtain dropper, it’s referring to something of great height. The best known mountain in the Old Testament (I believe) is Mt. ARARAT.
All the theme entries are items that have spots in one way or another and, in fact, they all have the same clue: “It has spots.” The most obvious one — at least to me — was 22A’s LEOPARD PRINT, but Mr. Deeney gets more creative from there.
Note, for example, the clue at 48A: “It has Spots, ” with a capital S. Where have you seen a capitalized Spot? It’s a dog’s name, and the answer is DOGGY DAY CARE.
Need a little help with the rest of the theme entries? Click on any clue below.
16A: It has spots
PARKING LOT (Parking spots)
35A: It has spots
COMMERCIAL BREAK (Commercial ads are known as "spots")
57A: It has spots
TEA SERVICE (As in, "Would you like a spot of tea?")
Just in case you are impressed with my ability to unravel themes and conquer The New York Times Crossword, let it be known that I misparsed 57A’s TEA SERVICE, tried Googling my wrong answer, and then smugly asked assistant editor Sam Ezersky what the heck a TEASER VICE was (in my defense, it had been a long day). Mr. Ezersky quickly — and kindly — corrected me, at which point I crawled back under my desk where I belong and continued to write this column.
Thanks for solving! It's very exciting to have a puzzle run in The New York Times again.
In the original submission, the wording of each theme clue was "Spot's spot" and BENCH PRESS appeared in place of TEA SERVICE. In Will and team's reply, they suggested "It has spots" would be a better clue and asked for a replacement for BENCH PRESS since that wouldn't quite fit.
I brainstormed a few ideas and they liked TEA SERVICE the best. After some back-and-forth on the grid, this was accepted in September. Their only request I couldn’t make work was removing DOLMA from the grid; all the alternatives I came up with had bigger problems. Hopefully not too many solvers will be concerned to see that pop up on a Tuesday. They're so tasty, after all.
The Tipping Point
Almost finished solving but need a bit more help? We’ve got you covered.
Warning: There be spoilers ahead, but subscribers can take a peek at the answer key .
Trying to get back to the puzzle page? Right here .