Go on, get Stranded

The latest New York Times game, and more from the puzzle world

Published March 10, 2024

Happy Sunday all! If you’re like many puzzle people, your Sunday starts with a New York Times crossword and NPR’s Sunday Edition, both a one-two combo with puzzlemaster Will Shortz. So of course we’re all wishing him a speedy recovery after last week’s announcement that Shortz is recovering from a stroke.

Meanwhile, the week had a big slate of puzzles, so let’s dive in!

Clues you can use

Thursday, Mar. 7 (New York Times, constructed by Joe O’Neill)

___ Africa (nickname of singer/activist Miriam Makeba) = MAMA

“Mama Africa” is a very appropriate byname for Miriam Makeba. Born in Johannesburg in 1932, she began her career as a mbube singer; she covered “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in that South African vocal style in 1960, the year after she moved to New York. With her mentor Harry Belafonte, Makeba’s sixth album, An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba (1965), made her the first African artist to win a Grammy (for Best Folk Recording). In 1967 she recorded the massive Afro-pop hit “Pata Pata,” and the following year she married civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael. An anti-apartheid activist, she recorded the 1977 protest song “Soweto Blues” with her second husband Hugh Masekela, nicknamed “the father of South African jazz.” When Makeba died in 2008, Nelson Mandela said “her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us.” 

Wednesday, Mar. 6 (Vox, constructed by Adesina O. Koiki)

A Bathing ___ (Japanese fashion brand) = APE

Also known by the portmanteau nickname BAPE, streetwear brand A Bathing Ape was founded in 1993 by Tokyo fashion designer/music producer Tomoaki “Nigo” Nagao. The name was pure mid-century: It refers to the 1968 film classic Planet of the Apes, and the fact that Japanese people took more baths in the nation’s post-WW2 economic boom. BAPE is best known for its camo designs–”camouflage” in name only, as all their looks are designed to stand out. Worldwide, many rappers and hip-hop artists have worn the brand, with Biggie Smalls perhaps the first.

Sunday, Mar. 3 (Norah’s Puzzles, constructed by catherinewheel and norah sharpe)

Playable character in “The Elder Scrolls” games = ORC

Happy 30th birthday to The Elder Scrolls! Originating with a 1994 MS-DOS game, the Bethesda Games franchise is set in various parts of the fantasy world of Tamriel. The namesake scrolls are a set of prophecies to be fulfilled by a Hero, which (wouldn’t you know it) might be you! The Elder Scrolls VI has been announced, but is still years away; for now, the most recent console game was 2011’s massively popular Skyrim.

And yes, you can play as an orc in every TES game. Correctly known as Orsimer, orcs are major players in all the Elder Scrolls games, with their own history, religion, and language (see this Reddit discussion about the most important orcs in history). 

Searching far and wide

A few more links for you:

  • The New York Times this week launched its word search game Strands. I’ve played these early editions, and they’re nice! It’s not the hardest game in the world–there’s no national championship for word searches–but it’s nonetheless a very calming word puzzle game, and a fun way to start your day.
  • Last week, the Slate podcast Working interviewed crossword constructor and author Anna Shechtman about how to write a puzzle. It’s a good listen, if you’re interested in how the sausage gets made.
  • I love to see official university write-ups of constructors, and Lehigh University talked to recent NYT constructor Larry Snyder about puzzles.

And that’s all for this week. Spring is almost officially here, so I hope you get to put your puzzle pencil down, walk around outside, and take in the new air. Have a great week!

Chris King is a longtime crossword commentator, and the author of five published puzzle books. His column appears on Questionist every Sunday.