Sunday Puzzle – Kristina Iverson, of Ames, Iowa, is assistant puzzle editor for The Times. She reviews crossword puzzle submissions and helps edit submissions accepted for publication. Her puzzle began as an 11×11 grid where each clue was an emoji and has evolved into this larger production, the first time that drawings have served as clues for a daily Times crossword puzzle. If you’re wondering who the artist is, it’s the creator! Christina said, “I was hoping to get someone to paint the pictures for me but had no luck, so I painted them all myself.”
I found the illustrations charming and loved the concept of visual clues – hope to see future examples. So I mean no offense whatsoever when I say I needed a crosshair to decipher at least one of them, which I was pretty sure was a gumball machine that spilled its contents. Once I was able to deduce that, my doodle made perfect sense.
Hey, who put the hieroglyphs in the crossword puzzle? That’s what I initially thought this set of traits was. There are no words for clues in 23-, 38-, 49-, 66-, 82-, 95-, and 114 crosses; Instead, we have a series of images to decipher. They do not seem to have anything in common at first, and the title of the puzzle, “A Thousand Words”, emphasizes the many ways an observer can interpret each drawing.
Nothing else to do but find out what one or two mean, then. I had plenty of underscores filled in at the bottom of the grid and enough cross letters to give me the entry for 114-Across, which is a depiction of someone swinging a golf club and someone with some kind of putter, I think: SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Or, referring to two of the action figures in the graphic, SPORTS, ILLUSTRATED.
49-obviously a small desktop computer with a mouse attached; You couldn’t ask for a more obvious universal symbol for this device, and in a puzzle, it sure is a computer symbol. On the other hand, I couldn’t figure out what the 82-Across machine, supposedly, was supposed to depict. I needed a lot of letters to get a lot of drawing, then I looked it up. All in all, it’s actually a pretty good lotto drawing!
I think my favorite example of the seven clues drawn has to be the 66-Across. The clue is definitely the judge’s gavel and the scales of justice, but I had been reading the thread literally and got stuck searching for something purely visual, like “a picture of justice.” The answer is legal representation.
10 d. You might recognize “Ben Jonson’s Love Poem” if you’ve seen or heard it; starts with “Drink to me only with your eyes,” a memorable part for this English major, at least. Its title, “Song: TO CELIA,” rings no bells.
11 d. I suppose the humor detector in my office is rusty, but this clue’s solution didn’t make any sense at all for the longest time. “Grp. Go over the falls? Resolves to OSHA, which Oversees workplace safety (Including trips and “falls”, I finally realized).
24 d. This “instrument much like a glockenspiel” has a keyboard and is often singled out with a reference to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker set, as the Celesta plays the atmospheric theme to “Sugar plum fairy dance. “
57 d. In the brighter mystery some biting wit must fall. This crept up on me: “Deer left?” He is VENISON.
92 d. “Deal deal” alludes to a confirmation action, which I assumed was a “handshake”. Instead, the solution is a term: ICE IT.
As Will mentions in his introduction, the first draft of this puzzle was an 11 by 11 grid where each individual clue was an emoji. Theme entries were for things like FASHION ICON and MIRROR IMAGE. Eventually I expanded it to 21 by 21 but dropped the emoji guides and kept the basic idea of using visual puns for theme entries. I drew these on the back of an envelope and took pictures of them, which I pasted into a Word document along with the rest of the clues. I had assumed the editors would find a professional illustrator, but liked the idea of using an original.
This was accepted about a year and a half ago, but at the time, the tools weren’t there to make this puzzle work in the Times app. Since accepting it, I’ve been appointed puzzle editor for The Times. This means that I got an inside view of how much hard work the Toolkit put in to make this puzzle a reality. I am so thrilled that they were able to make it happen!
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What do you think?