Game You Can’t Stand to Win


Jump to: Tricky Clues

FRIDAY PUZZLE — Do you have a favorite crossword constructor? You probably have a few favorite puzzles here and there, but is there a puzzle maker whose work you consistently admire?

I always hesitate to say I have a favorite, because I believe each puzzle should be enjoyed on its own merits. (“Judged” would be the wrong word here; puzzles are not county fair entries, waiting to claim the blue ribbon.)

But I really enjoy Robyn Weintraub’s puzzles. They are like a ray of sunshine.

Some solvers say they enjoy being on a constructor’s “wavelength,” meaning they can sense the thought process of the puzzle maker in order to solve the clues. For me, it’s more than that. Ms. Weintraub has tripped me up a few times, but I always get back on my feet with a smile on my face. I think it’s because she selects such interesting entries, and works tirelessly to rid her grids of junky fill. These qualities make me feel as if tripping up isn’t so bad. I don’t know the extent to which her clues are edited, but they are fair, fun and full of the wordplay that I love.

I’ve always hoped that solvers would get to know individual puzzle makers well enough to develop preferences, much like people have bands, authors or actors they adore. When I say preferences, I don’t mean in the competitive sense. But when solvers get to know the constructors well enough to appreciate and seek out their work, it’s a measure of the variety of talented human beings behind this daily pastime of ours. It’s also a way to look at the craft of puzzle creation as something wonderful, something more than just a 2-D test of knowledge.

So, tell me: Who are some of your favorite constructors?

1A. This is a great bit of misdirection to open the puzzle with. I first wrote “track” in the five-letter slot for “A train might get pulled along it.” It turns out that the answer doesn’t refer to this mode of transportation. The train in this puzzle is part of someone’s wedding dress, and the answer is AISLE.

16A. Was your first instinct to write in “carat” for “Diamond measurement”? I think this clue refers to a shape rather than a gemstone, and the surface AREA of a diamond is calculated by multiplying the length of one of its sides by the distance between any two opposite points.

25A. If you “can’t stand” something, you detest it, but that’s not what this clue is after. “Game you can’t stand to win” is an awesome clue for MUSICAL CHAIRS, in which you must sit down to win.

3D. “Result of a split decision?” refers to a decision to split from a larger body, such as when a SECT separates from a major religion.

6D. Ms. Weintraub debuts the phrase SERIAL COMMA, and this bit of punctuation is a topic of great interest here on the Wordplay team. Many writers are in the habit of ending lists with them, but at The New York Times, you quickly learn that, according to the stylebook, SERIAL COMMAs are not used here. It’s a surprisingly hard habit to break, and I’ve had to talk more than a few writers down after explaining this to them.

27D. SOUP TO NUTS (clued as “It’s all-inclusive”) is a great phrase, and I am genuinely surprised that it has not appeared in the Crossword since 1989. Say it out loud. Isn’t that fun? Let’s bring this one back.

32D. A “Pro fighter?” is anyone who fights, well, professionally. But in puzzles, the word “fighter” can also mean “the opposite of,” and the fighter of “pro” is ANTI.

The New York Times Crossword has an open submission system, and you can submit your puzzles online.

For tips on how to get started, read our series “How to Make a Crossword Puzzle.”

Almost finished solving but need a bit more help? We’ve got you covered.

Spoiler alert: Subscribers can take a peek at the answer key.

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