MONDAY PUZZLE — Congratulations to Kyra Wilson, who is making her solo New York Times Crossword debut after three collaborations with Sophia Maymudes in rapid succession over the past four months! Although I try to keep the math to a minimum around here (this isn’t Numberplay, after all), that works out to a puzzle per month for Ms. Wilson — quite a few more than the typical rate of “once in a blue moon” that most constructors see.
This lovely Monday puzzle makes it clear why Ms. Wilson is experiencing such a meteoric rise: It has a deceptively simple theme — perfect for beginning solvers — as well as interesting and fresh nontheme entries, fun clues and pretty minimal “crossword glue.” A storming good time all around!
24A. A “Computer for Apple pickers?” is not a laptop that gets carried into an orchard to track Granny Smiths and Honeycrisps. It’s just a computer for people who pick Apple computers, which is a MAC.
35A. The phrasing on this clue is kind of funny, but it totally works. In general, you should be able to substitute crossword clues for the entry in a complete sentence and still have that sentence make sense. For example, in the sentence, “This is HIS Granny Smith apple,” you could swap out the HIS and instead say, “This is ‘that guy’s’ Granny Smith apple,” and the meaning would remain the same.
47A. “GPS option: Abbr.” is a clue for RTE, or “route,” that signals the abbreviation twice. Just using the abbreviation “GPS” in the clue tells the solver to look for an abbreviation here, but the added abbreviation “Abbr.” means that there’s no way for a new solver to miss the giant, flashing, “THIS ENTRY IS AN ABBREVIATION” sign. This has been an abbreviated lesson in abbreviation entries.
59A. I am not particularly a fan of this clue (“Lead-in to girl”), which you’ll see all the time in crossword puzzles. The idea here is that “attagirl!,” which is to say, “that a girl!,” is a thing one might say to a girl. This just strikes me as an unfortunate choice when ATTA has its own meaning — it’s the flour used to make other crossword staples like roti.
21D. When I was solving, I saw the DM fill in consecutively and thought, “That can’t be right!” But, of course, DMING means direct messaging, or “Contacting privately via Twitter or Instagram.” In my experience, it also means “dungeon mastering” a Dungeons & Dragons game, but that’s a clue for another day.
26D. Another perennial crossword pet peeve of mine is the tendency to add the letter “e” to the beginning of words to make them the same word except on the internet. Here, “Manage one’s account via the internet” is EBANK, because, you see, there is an E in front of BANK. This one strikes me as more legitimate than other e-ified words like “etail” or “enote,” but I don’t think I would ever actually long onto my bank’s website to manage my account and describe myself as “EBANKing.”
The theme of this puzzle is captured by the perfect revealer “What precedes a storm … or a hint to 20-, 29- or 43-Across.” I said above that this theme was deceptively simple. That’s because themes of this type — in which the revealer is a phrase that tells the solver where in the theme entry they can find the thematic content — are quite common, but Ms. Wilson executes the theme with an extra layer of cohesion.
The revealer, WEATHER FRONT, could just mean that the theme entries have types of weather at the front. And although it does mean that, the theme entries also only contain weather terms that are related to storms (e.g. 29A: LIGHTNING BUG), which adds an extra layer of complexity, since WEATHER FRONTs, per the clue, precede storms. Cool, right?!
The puzzle also has some Easter egg bonus theme material in the clues at 1D (“Place to hang wind chimes”) and 8A (“Bits of rain or dew”), which refer to two other weather terms associated with storms (wind and rain).
I’m so thrilled to be making my solo NYT debut (despite this being my fourth byline this year)! I love when my themes have multiple layers to them, so in addition to having the weather-related words at the beginning of this puzzle’s theme entries, I also tried to make them appear in the order they would actually happen during a storm. I’m not sure how noticeable that will actually be during the solve, but it was fun for me to have an additional constraint in choosing a theme set and laying out the grid. Regretfully, this meant I couldn’t find a way to include any phrases that started with “rain,” which I think is the most obvious omission, but I’m still happy with the way the theme worked out.
Since I originally submitted this puzzle, I’ve done a lot of work to edit my word list and make sure that the fill in my grid is inclusive and respectful to everyone. Unfortunately, that meant that this puzzle does contain some language (namely 12- and 28-down) that I would no longer feel comfortable including if I had written this puzzle today. I think these words make light of serious issues and that including them worsens the solving experience. I will continue to work to make my puzzles as inclusive and respectful as possible in the future, and I’m very grateful to the constructors on Crossword Twitter and the Crosscord Discord channel who have spoken out about the importance of using inclusive language in puzzles.
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