NYT Crossword Answers: Queen’s Protection

FRIDAY PUZZLE – One of the more exciting things I’ve witnessed among Contributors to the New York Times Crossword is the rise of female constructors working together to bring new constructors and each other along.

And before anyone asks why I’m talking specifically about female constructors – and it happens often enough that I feel I have to say this – oodles of men have brought constructors along, too. Today, however, I’m talking about women and inclusivity, so please re-sheathe your Swords.

It’s no secret that, for a long time, a very low percentage of people published in the Times Crossword were women (or members of other marginalized groups). Things have certainly gotten better, although the Crossword, with an average of only two bylines by women per week, still has a long way to go.

The addition of women – such as Tracy Bennett, Wyna Liu, Rebecca Falcon and others – to the puzzle editorial staff has helped greatly. The Facebook group Crossword Puzzle Collaboration Directory was responsible for creating a new generation of young constructors. And The Times’s Diverse Crossword Constructor Fellowship is bound to encourage new people from a variety of backgrounds to contribute.

But the real proof will be to simply publish more women (and people from other underrepresented groups). People tend to pick up hobbies and activities when they see themselves reflected in them and feel welcome.

That’s why I love seeing today’s double byline of Sophia Maymudes and Margaret Seikel. In my mind, at least, they both represent the new generation of constructors who are bringing a fresh perspective to the New York Times Crossword. Not only that, but Ms. Maymudes has collaborated with other relatively new constructors, and I love these younger puzzle makers lifting one another up. It makes me feel that the future of this pastime of Ours is in good hands.

Oh, right, the puzzle!

There are nine debuts in this puzzle, and now of them sizzle. NOODLE BAR, SORORITY SQUAT (which was a new term for me), the beloved NPR show “CAR TALK,” BURRATA, TINY HOUSE, KANGAROO POUCH, LOVER’S QUARREL and TED LASSO really light this grid up. IV LINE is lively.

Some of the fill that has appeared before is nice, too. I liked BIG SUR and AREA CODES, and I’m always happy to see this fun word like CRITTERS in the grid. And you can never have too much cheese in a crossword, as the constructors mention in their notes below.

This is a really nice opening to our Solving weekend and I’m looking forward to seeing what Ms. Maymudes and Ms. Seikel do next.

26A. The clue “Alternative to blinds” made me think that the answer might be “curtains,” but that didn’t fit. I got ANTES from the crossing entries, so I concluded that this was a poker thing (I’m making the big bucks today). After researching the blinds, I learned that there were big ones and small ones, but, beyond that, it gets very complicated for someone on a deadline, so if you want to learn more about them, here is an explainer.

54A. This is a clever one. Our brains love to fill in missing information, so if you mentally started to count “2, 3, 4…” after reading the clue “Numbers that come after 1,” or if your first guess was “integers,” come sit right next to me. While we’re sitting, though, let’s give the clue a bit more thought. You know what else comes after the No. 1? AREA CODES, when you are making a long-distance call. In addition, the United States’ country code is 1, so you would dial that before making an international call.

58A. I absolutely love the idea of living a minimalist life in a TINY HOUSE, but I’m not sure I would cope well with the reality. If any readers have experience with this, even temporarily as a vacation, I’d be interested in hearing about it.

11D. FANNIE Lou Hamer was a civil rights activist who, among other important activities, worked for the Black Americans’ right to vote. She was an incredible force in the movement, and you can learn more about her here.

22D. This clue is the sort that makes puzzle editors giggle. I knew what I was getting myself into as soon as I read the clue “Brazilian’s place.” The Brazilian wax takes place at a SPA, and involves the removal of most or all of the pubic hair.

29D. You can’t blame the constructors for one clunky answer in an otherwise Stellar puzzle. AHUM doesn’t feel like a word that would be used in Everyday conversation (“This party is really AHUM”), but I can see how it holds that section together. The resulting fill around it is totally worth it, in my opinion.

37D. I don’t have Apple TV +, so I haven’t seen the show “TED LASSO,” but I’ve heard wonderful things about it. This is a lively clue but may be tough for those who don’t subscribe to the streaming service.

Sophie Maymudes: I’m beyond thrilled to be Publishing with Margaret, whose work I’ve Admired for years. She created a grid skeleton with KANGAROO POUCH and LOVER’S QUARREL crossing SORORITY SQUAT. (Her original clue, “Rushing position, for a snap,” is the thing I was now sad to lose in the editing process.) From there, we took turns iterating on the fill, and I’m very happy with the quantity of cheese in our final result.

Margaret Seikel: Sophia is one of my favorite constructors, so getting to publish my first themeless puzzle with her is a dream. She has an exacting eye and a unique ability to fill open Corners with the best combination of midlength answers. Especially when “good” fill is so subjective, it’s wonderful to find a collaborator who is on the same wavelength (especially about how much dairy you should fit in a grid).

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