NYT Crossword Answer: “French Calvinist”

SATURDAY PUZZLE — Talk about the best kind of weekend surprise! I hope we have some fans of Rachel Fabi, crossword columnist, here from the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday Wordplay posts. If those days put you in your comfort zone, have no fear! We can get through this excellent themeless from Rachel Fabi, crossword constructor.

This is Rachel’s first Saturday and her second overall puzzle after a 2020 Friday debut that was very well-received (and in between, she’s been busy. Very busy). This grid nimbly skips along the very narrow line between a good challenge, for people who require such, and a fun, generous sprinkle of attainable entries for, um, the rest of us.

A huge part of solving a difficult puzzle like this is not walking away after seeing a string of 20 clues that you absolutely can’t answer.

I think the first four or five entries I laid down are “there” for most solvers, either from everyday life or grids from other days of the week. For example, MEH, which this puzzle certainly is not, and SUM, two little bits of fill at the center that meet at “M.” Neither of these clues are so bad — “Tepid assessment” and “Total,” respectively — and their presence led my mind to instantly fill in another three-letter word that touches both: 27A, “Compliments to a chef.” “Kiss” doesn’t fit, and the middle letter is the U in SUM: How about YUM?

Pretty cute, and that one little entry provided the opportunity for me to expand into the rest of the grid. When I noticed that 28D, “They may be mixed,” began with the “M” at the end of YUM, METAPHORS was a good guess (speaking of which, wouldn’t “Mixed Metaphors” be a great name for a bar? ). Oh, and 7D, “By ethical standards,” ends in the Y at the beginning of YUM, and very straightforwardly solves to MORALLY.

Of course, I also had some misses. I had “aye aye” at 10D, instead of AYE SIR, and missed the joke completely at 4D, “Letters.” I figured if there are consonants there might be prosonants (there are not) and just “sonants” (which is a word, at least). But this clue refers to those who “let,” or rent: TENANTS. The rest of the puzzle filled in slowly but correctly and provided a lot of interest and amusement.

7A. There are some tough name clues today; Those often stand out to me when I first scan a grid, and they make me anxious, but just as often the entry involves a great biographical story. I didn’t know a thing about this entrepreneur, MADAM CJ Walker, nee Sarah Breedlove, who founded a successful haircare line at the turn of the 20th century that employed thousands of mostly Black saleswomen throughout the United States.

16A. This is easy trivia for Little Monsters and the much smaller contingent of people who eat pasta on the Upper West Side; Everyone else might need some crosses to deduce JOANNE, Lady Gaga’s much-beloved aunt.

18A. This entry solves to an expression that has been in the puzzle once before, and a close relative (ending in “kinds”) has appeared a few times as well. It’s a big world, and IT TAKES ALL SORTS.

44A. One constructor’s icon (see Rachel’s notes) is at least one solver’s complete headscratcher. She’s also a debut to the Times puzzle, but nearly 14 million followers aren’t wrong: Nikkie DE JAGER is a pro at demystifying the art of making up.

56A. “Pays in the Alps?” requires a bit of the polyglot and makes for a really nifty double definition. “Pays” will make you think of financial transactions, but in this case it’s French for “country,” and solves to the French for a country in the Alps: Switzerland, or SUISSE, which also might have made you think of a big bank . Another touch that might influence you toward money matters is PAYSTUB, intersecting at the U in SUISSE.

6d. I’d bet this is a wink to solvers of all levels. It’s a familiar piece of advice when you’re stuck on something, and it really works: Don’t give up, but SLEEP ON IT.

34D. This is highbrow trivia, to me at least. This term for a “French Calvinist” dates to the 1500s, HUGUENOT, and apparently refers to the practice of worshiping in one’s home.

43D. This is furry brow trivia! One “longhaired star of 1950s TV” who was particularly glamorous, brilliant and heroic was LASSIE.

I’m excited to be back in The Times as a constructor! Although I write the Wordplay column about the early-week themed puzzles, I most enjoy constructing themeless puzzles — I can’t resist a pretty block pattern. This puzzle started with the two 15-letter entries, and then I built a pretty grid around them. I’m thrilled with how the puzzle turned out, and I’m particularly happy to feature 44A (icon!) and 17D (my hometown team!). My favorite clue that survived editing is 56A, and my favorite clue written by the editors is 32D.

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.”

Subscribers can take a peek at the answer key.

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

What did you think?

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