NYT Crossword Answers: “Carrying the Banner” Musical

PUZZLE TUESDAY – Congratulations to Kate Schutzengel on her New York Times Crossword debut. It’s our fifth debut of the year, and it’s silly (in the best possible way)! Before I get into the subject, however, I want to discuss an index convention that can be particularly confusing for new solvers.

Specifically, the use of “it” in crossword clues (as in the clue for 20A: “That’s ‘the word'”). A vast majority of crossword clues do not directly refer to their entry, simply offering a definition of the entry (or a pun, or a blank fill, etc.) without any sort of meta, conscious acknowledgment of itself from the entrance itself. But clues that use “that” as we see in 20A (or 10D) explicitly refer to the word the clue is about.

I wanted to highlight this style of clue only because it may leave new solvers scratching their heads, wondering why this clue is written as a complete sentence while the others are not. By contrast, consider 8D: “College Job Security” – why was it this clue is not written as “It’s college job security”?

I think there are two reasons why constructors use the “it” subscript convention. First, to create a bit of variety in the voice of the hints – mixing it up a bit keeps solvers engaged and on their toes. Second, to allow for a particular type of pun or misdirection.

(Spoiler alert for 10D!)

For example, in the clue for 10D (“It can be found above the mantle”), using “it” – instead of saying “layer” which “can be found above the mantle” – preserves some ambiguity. This creates a chance to play on the word “mantle”, which could be a layer of dirt (the correct reading) or a shelf above a fireplace (the wrong direction).

So when you see a complete sentence with an “it”, just remember: that’s the word!

20A. To expand on the above explanation a bit, “That’s ‘the word'” is the clue for MUM, alluding to the phrase “mommy is the word”, which means “don’t tell anyone!”

28A. A “drifting sheet” is an ice shelf in the sense that an ice sheet is a drifting sheet of ice.

50A. The “Org. which creates the GRE” is ETS The letters in GRE stand for “Graduate Record Examination”, so this use of an abbreviation tells you that the entry will also be an abbreviation. ETS is short for “Educational Testing Service “, which creates and administers the graduate school admission test.

53A. “The Musical ‘Carrying the Banner'” is NEWSIES – please enjoy this video of a performance of “Carrying the Banner” from the 1992 film “NEWSIES”.

60A. The “go-between” in the “Sigma/upsilon go-between” index is TAU, which is the letter that literally goes between sigma and upsilon in the Greek alphabet.

2D. I can’t read the sentence “Isn’t it special?” without hearing it in the voice of the Lady of the Church “SNL”. With quoted phrases like this, you’ll usually need to identify another colloquial phrase that means the same thing. In this case, the equally sardonic “HOW NICE” fits the bill.

9D. The question mark in “Cash-out spot?” lets you know there’s a bit of pun involved: a “pick-up point” is not a place to withdraw cash, like poker chips, but rather a place where cash fate — an ATM.

11D. I must have a crossword on my brain, because I couldn’t help thinking that “The difference between a mini and a midi” must have been the dimensions of the puzzle! But no, we are talking about mini and noon skirts, so the difference is the HEMLINE.

65D. More puns here! A “Paris agreement? is not a multilateral international agreement signed in Paris, but rather the word of agreement that we could use in Paris: YES.

This puzzle has a silly pun theme based on one of my favorite comic book characters. The telltale clue, at 63A, is “Lucy’s empty cabin sign in ‘Peanuts’…or a clue of 16, 24, 37, and 55-Across”, which can only be THE DOCTOR IS OUT. As I solved, I tried to pay attention to the theme entries to figure out what was going on, but I couldn’t have predicted that this would be the telltale. It perfectly captures what is happening in the entries shown: THE DOCTOR (“DR”) has been removed from common phrases to create silly new ones.

The first of these, at 16A, is TWO INK MINIMALS (where the letters D and R have been dropped from the phrase “two glass minimums”, a common requirement, for example, in comedy shows , where attendees must purchase two drinks with their tickets). This sentence became TWO INK MINMS, which are “Possible requirements for joining a tattoo club?” Pleasant!

My other favorite theme entry is at 55A, where “preceded by commenting on an adorable kitten photo, shall we say?” is the clue for BEAT TO THE AW, as in, said “aw” in response to a kitten photo before anyone else could say it. This play on “beat the toss” is so obviously silly that I don’t think I could like any other theme entry more, and it gave me a reason to use a kitten photo at the top of the column , so this entry wins today’s award for overall excellence in topical entries.

I’m so excited to make my New York Times debut! I live in Brooklyn with my husband and our three children, and this puzzle was made possible by each of them. My eldest daughter is responsible for starting my interest in crossword puzzles; my husband and I started doing the puzzle over 5 years ago trying to stay awake while feeding her like a newborn. My son inspired this particular puzzle by telling me to have “sweet eams” one night (early versions included “Exclamation of a Mid-Century Modern Enthusiast”). And I learned to build puzzles in 2020 while on maternity leave with my youngest, who was the chilliest baby. Many thanks to my husband, who provided encouragement, additional theme ideas, and test solving along the way.

The crossword community has been such a wonderful and welcoming group of people. Thanks to the people who graciously gave their time to help me (and others) learn – especially Kate Hawkins, Ross Trudeau and Christina Iverson.

It’s cold here in New York, so I’d like to remind everyone to SAY NO TO UGGS. Just kidding, it’s your feet, keep them warm.

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 “How to Make a Crossword Puzzle” series.

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Warning: There are spoilers ahead, but subscribers can take a look at the answer key.

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