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New York Times Crossword Answers for Dec. 26, 2023

New York Times Crossword Answers for Dec. 26, 2023

Jump to: Today’s Theme | Tricky Clues

TUESDAY PUZZLE — Nobody who spends a significant measure of their days online wants to be told to “touch grass.” The tongue-in-cheek directive is reserved for those whose screen time has reached a fever pitch — wouldn’t they prefer to log off and step outside? The air is lovely.

Neil Shook, in constructing today’s crossword, seems determined to get us back in touch with our physical world, grassy and otherwise. His debut puzzle for The New York Times, aside from being a delight to look at, is filled with the kind of analog surprises you might have forgotten existed while you doomscrolled your days away. Let’s recover them together, shall we?

Gray blocks of four squares apiece populate today’s grid, giving it the effect of a modern art piece. What’s it all about?

We’re told that “Places for playthings,” at 62-Across, double as a “hint to this puzzle’s shaded squares.” (Note that by “playthings,” Mr. Shook is referring to tangible trinkets — as opposed to, say, the contents of the Times Games App.)

The answer is TOY BOXES — a lovely source of post-Christmas cheer — and hints at the fact that, in each cluster of shaded squares, a toy can be found (read clockwise from top left). Between 5-Down’s NAKED and 6D’s EDITED, for example: a KITE! Or find the DRUM hiding in PADMA (28D) and GRU (32D).

I’ll let you pull the rest of the toys out of the box yourself. Have fun — just don’t forget to pick them up and put them away afterward.

8A. What “Lightens up?” in this clue? You, once you pick up on the intended meaning. This is about color, not humor; the entry is PALES.

41A. The ending of “Best-case scenarios” didn’t seem natural until I figured out the entry, OPTIMUMS. Even then, I briefly thought that I was staring at a compound word about hopeful mothers.

45A. I was unfamiliar with the “Fashion designer Kamali,” whose first name is NORMA, but I have now learned that she’s known for pioneering sleeping-bag coats and jumpsuits made from parachute silk, so sign me up.

2D. To “Pull off a spool” is to UNREEL. If you pull something off a reel, though, do you “unspool” it? (That word has yet to appear as an entry in the Times Crossword.)

9D. One’s “Partner in crime” takes a few names — accomplice, sidekick, et al. — but in legal terms, it’s an ABETTOR. (For a handy mnemonic device, repeat after me: “Why commit crimes alone? I’ve got ABETTOR idea …”)

25D. Though I’m a seasoned New Yorker, the name of this “Pest control brand” eluded me. It turned out to be D-CON, probably shorthand for decontaminate (though a certain military acronym also comes to mind).

37D. To “Sit on, as a seesaw,” is to STRADDLE. I can’t remember the last time I sat on a seesaw — but then, perhaps that’s why I was overdue for a puzzle as young at heart as Mr. Shook’s. To the playground, anyone?

Thrilled to be making my crossword debut in The New York Times! A special shout-out to my “test solver” — a.k.a. my dachshund, who insists on curling up beside me whenever I work on a puzzle and isn’t shy to assert his opinion. (He’s particularly fond of 3D and 23D.)

I hope the fill and clues in this puzzle make for an enjoyable solve and don’t provoke too many irritated shouts, as 42D might. My thanks to the editing team for tightening up the puzzle and amplifying the playful theme.

Happy solving, and happy holidays.

Want to be part of the conversation about New York Times Games, or maybe get some help with a particularly thorny puzzle? Here are the:

Spelling Bee Forum

Wordle Review

Connections Companion

Work your way through our guide, “How to Solve the New York Times Crossword.” It contains an explanation of most of the types of clues you will see in the puzzles and a practice Mini at the end of each section.

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.”

Still feeling adrift? Subscribers can take a peek at the answer key.

Trying to get back to the main Gameplay page? You can find it here.