Crossword puzzles are a popular pastime for many people who enjoy testing their knowledge and vocabulary skills. But sometimes, crossword clues can be more than just words. They can be hints to a hidden mystery, a secret message, or even a crime.
One such clue was found in the New York Times Mini Crossword on December 10, 2022. The clue for 6-Down was “Smells like 12-Across, maybe”. The answer was STINKS, which is a synonym for smells bad. But what was 12-Across? And why would it smell bad?
The Clue for 12-Across
The clue for 12-Across was “Animals said to make good pets if their scent glands are removed”. The answer was SKUNKS, which are black-and-white mammals known for their ability to spray a foul-smelling liquid when threatened. Skunks are sometimes kept as pets by people who remove their scent glands, which are located near the base of their tail.
But why would the clue say that skunks smell like STINKS, maybe? Is it possible that the clue was implying that some skunks still have their scent glands intact, and that they could spray their owners or their surroundings at any time? Or was there a deeper meaning behind the clue?
The Hidden Message
Some crossword solvers noticed that the clue for 6-Down was not the only one that referenced another clue. The clue for 7-Across was “___ buco (Italian dish)”, and the answer was OSSO, which is a type of veal shank. The clue for 8-Down was “Jean ___, pioneering artist of the Dada movement”, and the answer was ARP, which is the surname of a German-French sculptor and painter.
If you combine the answers for 6-Down, 7-Across, and 8-Down, you get STINKS-OSSO-ARP, which sounds like “Stinks of soap”. Could this be a hidden message from the crossword constructor? And if so, what does it mean?
The Possible Explanation
One possible explanation for the hidden message is that it was a way of expressing dissatisfaction with the quality of the crossword puzzle. Maybe the constructor felt that the puzzle was too easy, too boring, or too predictable, and wanted to convey that to the solvers. Maybe the message was a way of saying that the puzzle was not worth solving, and that it was better to wash it away with soap.
Another possible explanation is that the hidden message was a clue to a real-life mystery or crime. Maybe the constructor was involved in or witnessed something illegal or immoral, and wanted to alert the authorities or the public. Maybe the message was a way of saying that someone or something smelled of soap, which could indicate that they were trying to cover up their tracks or hide their identity.
The clue for 6-Down, “Smells like 12-Across, maybe”, was more than just a wordplay. It was part of a hidden message that could have multiple interpretations. Whether it was a joke, a complaint, or a cry for help, the clue sparked the curiosity and imagination of many crossword solvers. It also showed that crossword puzzles can be more than just a game. They can be a way of communicating, expressing, and revealing.