As I have mentioned, I have experienced an unexpected reversal in my aversion to crossword puzzles. This is partially because they have evolved considerably from their previous incarnation, which was rife with clues involving Chinese currency and Biblical references. It’s true that Adam, Eve, and their progeny still show up with some regularity, but there’s definitely a new crossword sheriff in town. And since I’m now a frequent crossworder, I’m starting to catch on to the habits of the new regime. Here’s some of the inside scoop.

You can be sure there’ll always be an answer involving either Eno (Brian) or Ono (Yoko). These are the go-to clues whenever cruciverbalists require a short word that ends in “no”. The Eno one is always cued with “music producer Brian,” however the Ono one can take many forms. It could be “Lennon’s wife,” or “artist Yoko,” or even (a bit of a big stretch) “musician Yoko.”

If the crossword says you have a French friend or a Spanish aunt or a German wife, that means the answer is amie, tia, or frau. I admit it took me a while to figure that one out, but now I answer those ones in a split second. At least for the French and German ones, languages with which I have a passing acquaintance. Alas, as most crosswords are American-centric, Spanish plays a more prominent role than I would prefer, so I have to hope that those answers intersect with an Eno or Ono and solve themselves.

The words “era” and “eon” show up pretty much every time. Probably to prove they are indeed hip and happening, crossword creators even use “the name of Taylor Swift’s tour” to eke out a version of “era” (eke is also a popular word, by the way). Since she will apparently be touring for eons, they might need to revise that one eventually. Staying with the three-letter words, the only way to make a mistake in crossword-land is to “err.” And of course, an “NYSE debut” always equates to “IPO.”

But the evil minds of the crossword cabal have many less discernible tricks up their sleeves, especially when there’s a theme going on. The correct answers for thematic questions only tangentially involve things a reasonably conscious person could pull from their general knowledge. Take, for example, a recent Saturday puzzle that was titled “Backing Musicians.” “Keep Ray Davies and co. in shape,” “Hustle to get Robert Smith and co. their gear before showtime,” and “Provide Pat Monahan and co. a place to stay on the road” were the helpful hints for three themed answers. Decidedly not your parents’ version of the weekend paper pastime. For starters, you’d need to know who Ray Davies, Robert Smith, and Pat Monahan are, and by association, what groups they are part of. Then, you have to figure out what the heck the clue is getting at.

I won’t leave you hanging. The answers were “working out the Kinks,” “race for the Cure,” and “house Train,” respectively. I have never heard of Pat Monahan (he probably hasn’t heard of me either), but thanks to “that’s a mental image I didn’t need” (tmi), Baklava’s many “layers,” “Ana,” (Knives Out actress De Armas), “bishop’s locale” (diocese), and “gimlet spirit” (gin), the word “train” magically appeared and saved me from the dreaded all-solved-puzzle, except for (insert shameful small number of) squares.

Yet another first world problem successfully resolved.


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