Red Sauce

SATURDAY PUZZLE — Lo, the fourth installment of this series is upon us, if solvers are counting. David P. Williams is creating themeless puzzles, of identical topology, that are all inspired by the Wallace Stevens poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” The previous three iterations appeared in August 2023, November 2023 and January 2024. They’ve all been good, chewy challenges. Any connections between these crosswords and the Stevens poem aren’t exactly emerging from the mist for me, personally, and I welcome observations and theories from other solvers.

Funny enough, I have found the same spot in each of these puzzles to be the toughest to get through: the southeast corner. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but this puzzle’s southeast corner has an entry that appeared in the exact same spot in Mr. Williams’s last grid, albeit with a different clue. I didn’t know it then, and I didn’t know it today, either.

1A. Don’t miss Mr. Williams’s alternate clues in his Constructor Notes below. They’re all really good, although I agree that none would have made this puzzle any easier. For example, “Old currency of Massachusetts” might have been “Manhattan clams?” The answer is WAMPUM, ornamental beads made from clam shells by Native Americans living in the Northeast. These beads were woven into textiles that were originally used in ceremonies and given as gifts. After Europeans arrived, they played a role in trade.

24A. I don’t know if the young’uns will get this one, unless they’ve co-opted it to mean something else (Ate Skibidi Cap I oop I oop or something, who knows). This “Text acronym” is “American Standard Code for Information Interchange,” the internet’s character encoding format for text data, a.k.a. ASCII.

46A. I responded to this clue, “Red sauce,” with great confidence and the wrong answer, “marinara.” The correct answer is SRIRACHA, which was also the entry at 46A in this constructor’s last puzzle. It was clued then as “Condiment sometimes mixed with mayonnaise.” I could only think of “ketchup” or “catsup,” both of which appear in New York Times puzzles — but neither of which fit.

48A. This is a great labor-related clue! For “Bargain hunters,” think of the way contracts are resolved over the bargaining table, where worker UNIONS hash out a deal with employers.

12D. This clue is a pun that plays on the name of a newsletter platform; I’m sure it has blogs about cold cuts. In this puzzle, “Sub stack?” is a sandwich ingredient: SALAMI.

14D. This clue sounds a lot like movie trivia to me — “Drag through Hollywood” — but I couldn’t get a film to fit. Instead, the “drag” is a road: the SUNSET STRIP.

21D. And speaking of movie trivia: The “Setting for the classic film line ‘I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!’” is a tense yet witty standoff in the SIERRA MADRE.

Some trickier clues from which solvers were spared:

1A: Manhattan clams?
15A: A barbell might rest on one
18A: Fix up a joint?
10D: They squawk at home
11D: Really receptive, in one way
28D: Swingers’ party, informally?

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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