Play this week’s crossword here.
Difficulty Level: 5/5
(Note: We are excited to announce our new difficulty scale! What better way to celebrate than with a “Very Challenging” 5/5?)
Today’s puzzle from Rishi Dange is packing some serious heat — literally. It’s already been a challenging week of ‘Prince’ crosswords, with Tuesday’s puzzle requiring solvers to enter some words spelled backwards. Now, Dange keeps the ball rolling with a similarly tricky theme.
Read on below for help with tricky clues, thoughts from Dange, and the answer key.
18A, 22A, 5D: Regular readers of this commentary will know how much I appreciate parallel construction in clues. All three of these question-marked clues suggest a string of letters that might come before or after a certain word. AGRI might come before the word “culture,” INC in the name of a business, and ORG in the name of a nonprofit.
41A: This is, indeed, a HOT TAKE in the clue. Milk comes before cereal. I’m not having it any other way.
43A: Anyone else see this cryptic tweet from the Game of Thrones Twitter account? It seems HBO might have a new series in the works.
69A: If you think someone is bluffing in poker, you might roll your eyes and say “Suuure” or “I BET.” A smart player would probably also call the bluff by saying “I BET” for real. Hence, the double-meaning that Dange hints at in the clue.
64D: UTC stands for Universal Time Coordinated, and every time zone on the planet can be described with respect to UTC. The answer here is GMT, or Greenwich Mean Time, which has no difference from UTC.
Heat rises — it’s the principle behind hot air balloon flight, and it’s the principle behind this puzzle’s theme. In all four longest Down answers, the letters HEAT must be entered in reverse order, rising up in the grid instead of going down. For instance, while you might be tempted to quickly drop “Death Eaters” into 4-Down, the real answer is DEATTAEHERS. Similarly, 11-Down is UNSTAEHHE, not “unsheathe.” The remaining two are left to the solver.
I loved this idea when Dange first suggested it, and I still do today. Typically, The New York Times will only allow this type of trickery once a week on Thursdays. This is for good reason, I think; it can be quite frustrating if you never figure out what’s going on. Still, it leads to a great aha-moment when things finally click. Congratulations to Dange on a great debut!
Happy Friday! I can’t drop this puzzle without being sure to give a huge thanks to Owen and Gabe for all of their help during the process. They’ve made my transition from solver to constructor so much easier and also so much more fun. Also, thanks to my sister who apparently taught me the alphabet on day one out of the hospital — couldn’t have written the puzzle without all of those letters.
I’ve been solving all sorts of puzzles for pretty much my whole life. I first got into crosswords because there would always be a large crossword at the end of the Sports section (my favorite section, as you can probably tell from some of the answers in the puzzle) in the San Jose Mercury News. For the past few years, I’ve been solving the NYT puzzles and minis, but it’s definitely true that constructing is a totally different kind of fun (especially writing the clues that I thought were pretty funny). For those of you who clearly enjoy crosswords enough to have gotten this far in solving the puzzle and reading its commentary, I 10/10 recommend you give constructing a shot if you haven’t done so.
Need more help? See below for the answer key.