Letterplay – The New York Times

You will probably run into, and solve, theme entries in random order — I certainly did. The first one that I knew for sure was at 42-Across, “Beer named for a founding father,” which is SAM ADAMS and which I assumed was just a normal, innocuous fill. This clue happens to be quite near its paired entry, which is 52-Across: “DST starting time … or a hint to 42-Across.” Nothing struck me there. I got to 90-Across, “Club for farm kids … or a hint to 97-Across,” and figured it had to be “4-H.” If the entry hadn’t been five letters long, I’d have probably tried HHHH; instead, I sat on it for a bit and tried 97-Across, “Secretive.” Because of some crossing letters, I got this entry right: HUSH-HUSH. Or, I realized, HUSH-HUSH — those four H’s must mean something.

Because of the placement of OAHU, QUIT and JACUZZI, I figured out 27-Across next. “Visitor to a website, in analytics lingo,” is a UNIQUE USER. Its companion clue is at 71-Across, “23rd in a series … or a hint to 27-Across.” We’re dealing with “Letterplay,” so the series that comes to mind is naturally alphabetical, but what does “W” (the 23rd letter) have to do with the entry at 27-Across? Aha — UNIQUE USER contains two U’s, or a DOUBLE U.

DOUBLE U got me attuned to how to answer 68-Across: “Top credit rating … or a hint to 25-Across.” That credit rating (for corporate bonds) is AAA, or TRIPLE A. What could that have to do with 25-Across, “Not true?” Thank you, crosses! This one made sense only when I reverse engineered it; a line that’s “not true,” or straight, might be AT AN ANGLE. There are your TRIPLE A’s.

So what about 90-Across? “Quadruple” doesn’t fit; the entry is FOUR H. And what about 52-Across, that “DST starting time …”? That’s TWO AM, referring to the TWO “AM”s in SA.M ADA.MS.

There are two more examples — one excellent pair of puns at 89- and 115-Across and a variation at 54- and 118-Across — that make the limits of the numerical sequence. (It’s almost a sequence, anyway. It’s missing “one,” or “single,” and instead goes ZERO — TWO — DOUBLE — TRIPLE — FOUR — FIVE.) That ZERO entry is a coup de grâce. 54-Across, “Weightlessness … or a hint to 118-Across,” is ZERO G. 118-Across is “Baseball announcer’s call on a home run.” What’s that they say? “It’s outta here?” In this case, it’s a more suspenseful statement, that, with ZERO G’s, reads, OIN OIN ONE.

Subscribers can take a peek at the answer key.

Trying to get back to the puzzle page? Right here.

What did you think?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: