Why?  good, why not?  – The New York Times

Why? good, why not? – The New York Times

Sunday Puzzle – Jesse Goldberg is a software engineer based in San Francisco. This is his third crossword for The Times (and his second Sunday puzzle – his first almost exactly a year ago was beautiful, drawing quotes from a famous French kitchen, in case you missed it). Many solvers will know the everyday life of this puzzle-loving designer: solving Wordle, checking Wordlebot, playing Spelling Bee, solving crosswords, in that order.

The fill is light today and there are some interesting long entries; It’s pretty easy to get a little lost when searching for the topic.

44A. I drew a space at this trivia clue, “Andy Dufresne in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, for example,” and thought for a while that it might be on topic, having been misled to a homophone. I had “Syd” instead of CYD CHARISSE, which left me with the nonsensical word “essapee, as in “SaP”. Ridiculous, but just one letter away from the correct description – Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins in the film, became a prison escapee.

94A. This entry surprised me even though I’m an owner and a big fan. “They could dirty the whole floor” refers to cheerful, rechargeable ROOMBAS.

17D. Mr. Goldberg is a software engineer and when I saw “Server Error” with a few strategic cross letters I wrote “Root Fault”. This seems to be nothing; There is a “root” directory, but it’s harmless. Also, the “server” in question is not part of a computer system or restaurant employee; it is a nod to tennis and the fault of a FUSSFAULT.

53D. “Primeval” makes me think of jungle without people rattling around, grunting and making tools, but STONE AGE is synonymous.

62D./65D. I found the arrangement of these clues amusing. 62D, ‘Prince’s former employee’ leads to MORRIS Day (who is still touring with The Time). 65D, “‘ru 4 real?'” reminds me of a Prince text.

There are four pairs of themed entries in today’s puzzle that perform the same trick, a letter shift where a character jumps from one entry in the pair to the other, making both pun clues make sense. There’s also a delightful revealer at 115-Across that hints at a detail of this letter shift that somehow escaped me.

Another thing that somehow eluded me while solving this puzzle was the actual pairing of the themes. I blame this on finding almost all entries that get a letter first; these are 24-, 51-, 71- and 96-bar, and they’re a barrel of monkeys.

At 24-Across, “Places where some belts are tighted?”, the entry is BELLY BOTTOMS, which is anatomically correct as a simple answer, but is also a play on “belly pants.” If you noticed the title of the puzzle, this is where you’ll be nodding – “Why? Good, why not?” Useful for a subject where the letter “Y” needs to be added to terms and phrases for comedic effect.

51-Across is amazing. “Lawyer with absurdly over the top humor?” becomes a variation on another career path, CAMPY COUNSELOR. 71-Across, “Harvester in need of cleaning?” dims. 96-Across, “Battle between Tinker Bell and Princess Ozma?” is as light as a feather: both characters are engaged in a FAIRY BATTLE.

I had solved three of these clues before getting anywhere with their partners in crime who are 29, 58, 80 and 108. For some reason these were a lot harder for me and I didn’t see the connection for a while. 29-Across, “Stephen Crane’s ‘The Red Badge of Courage’, eh?” resolves to COMBAT READ. Yes, yes, famous war novel. I have it. 80-Across was more of a head-scratcher, but somehow still acceptable: “Doctor’s Description of Birth of Triplet Sons?” resolves to THREE TIMES SALAD. Ah, yes, Mr. Goldberg, very clever.

Luckily 58-Across saved me. “Schlafphase?” dissolves into SLUMBER PART. Aha! This “slumber party” is missing its “Y” in the case of “Well, Why Not?”. That means COMBAT READ is a combat ready game, and, um, oh, that’s Three times a lady.”

Finally, at the very end of this puzzle, is this little surprise revealer at 115-Across: “Become aware…or a homophonic description of four-letter shifts in the grid of this puzzle.” I was thinking “Seeing why” or something like that, but this is so much better. Say WISE UP TO out loud, if only to yourself—Y is two up—and note the trajectory of each letter “Y” in these pairs of topics. They go up two rows at a time and fit right in – pretty nifty!

This topic came about by accident. Luckily, I happened to notice the pun potential when the disclosure phrase appeared in something I was reading. It might not be the most efficient way of generating topic ideas, but keeping your brain in “crossword mode” as you go about your day can occasionally bear fruit.

Overall, the grid making process went pretty smoothly. Since the themes only had to remove/add a single letter, there were numerous options to choose from. I’m struggling a bit with the position of revealer. For the purists out there who like their revealers to be in the last across slot, just say that I fought hard to make this possible, but didn’t quite make it. At least not without some ugly fill options that I didn’t want to accept.

I hope you all like the solution.

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Are you trying to return to the puzzle page? Exactly here.

What did you think?

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