NYT Crossword Answers: Classic Poem Set in “Dark December”


29D. “One face the crew, informally” is the index of COX, short for COXswain, the member of a rowing crew who sits at the back of the boat facing the rowers in order to direct and coordinate their rhythm.

35D. There are several ways to interpret the “Remain to See” and ASH clue-response pair, depending on how morbid you are. I choose to interpret it as the visible remains of a fire, but I suspect it could also refer to human remains that are cremated and displayed after cremation.

37D. STAY WOKE’s “social justice slogan” urges people to remain aware of oppressive structures and inequalities.

55D. Again, a little morbid here, but the hint “Life after death? Refers to an OBIT, short for OBITuary: the story of someone’s life, written after the person’s death.

The revealer of this puzzle is right in the middle of the grid at 38A: “Symbol for the 18-, 27-, 46- and 58-Across starts.” This symbol is XXX, which can represent the first word of each named entry in the developer. The first of these is ADULT DENTS (“They stay and bite”); XXX represents the word ADULT in expressions such as “ADULT movie” or “ADULT content”. It’s pretty risky for the Times, but somehow it’s only the second most daring thematic entry in this puzzle.

At 46A we have the most surprising entry: KISSES BUTT (“Win a favor by using abject flattery, informally”). For my part, I’m delighted to see builders pushing the boundaries of what belongs to the New York Times crossword. The XXX, in this case, represents the word KISS, as in the symbols one could draw to sign a letter with affection.

I don’t like the latest thematic entry, BOOZE HOUND, which, along with its hint, “Souse,” is a pretty stigmatizing way of referring to someone with an alcohol use disorder. XXX could represent BOOZE in cartoons showing alcohol bottles, a marking that is linked to the practice of labeling certain liquors (like moonlight) with Xs each time they are distilled.

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