Little Bitty

This is a choice puzzle by Taylor Johnson and Christina Iverson. You must choose one of two options, each of which will lead to a different outcome.

Little Bitty

In a 2004 piece, American psychologist Barry Schwartz discussed the "tyranny" of choice -- a psychological paralysis that results from too many choices. The paradox of modern Western culture is that when faced with a multitude of options, choosing can be overwhelming.

My own version of the paradox was when I cried on a first date in a public library, because I suddenly realized that I would not live long enough for me to read all books. My date and I broke up a few months later, but it's unclear if the library incident played a role.

The crossword today, created by Taylor Johnson and Christina Iverson as their first collaboration for The New York Times offers a different perspective on choices. We could try to be more specific in our preferences rather than refraining from making any choices.

Today's Theme

We're given a clue at 61-Across that also doubles as a puzzle revealer: "So particular!" Or, in other senses like 17-, 42- and 32-Across?

PICKY! PICKY! PICKY describes someone who is particularly picky about things like food or dates. 17A is a VEGETABLE GARDENER, whose harvesting behavior is quite particular. A TEAM CAPTAIN who is known as a 'Squad Leader' in sports (32A), selects his teammates one-by-one, is called a 'Squad Leader'. No? You just asked.

Tricky Clues

Why is the hollow in the "Back of the Neck" called a NAPE? Etymologists believe it could be a shape reference, derived from the Old French word for "goblet."

YES MEN are the 'Agreeable Suck-ups,' who like to hang around powerful people and government officials. We don't know what to call those who are disagreeable. I guess we don't use the "no-men" clasification.

The alternate definition of NITS, which is all too familiar for anyone who has been to sleepaway camp, is lice eggs.

It's possible that you had difficulty remembering the "Storybook Bear whose porridge is too cold" because we tend to think of it in terms of Goldilocks, its main character (whom some would say was its villain). It was MAMA Bear’s porridge.

I thought it was quaint and almost anachronistic that the 'On-call Doctor's Scrutineer' device would be a PAGER. However, these one-way radio communications devices are still used widely in American hospitals, because they reach areas where cell phones cannot.

LOME is referred to as 'Togo capital'. Bonus fact for builders: Ewe is one of the main languages in the country. This is great for those who are trying to solve the letters E-W.E. with something other than 'female lamb' or a "" pun.

In "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," blonde-braided BECKY THATCHER becomes the boy's lover. Amy Lawrence must have been able to resist the temptation to write a scathing revenge song about " Becky with the nice hair" when he left her briefly for her.

Solving Tip


Crossword, unlike Wordle does not reward or discourage guessing orders. There's also no secret order of solvers or solving order that will make you a better puzzler. If you find yourself getting stuck or overwhelmed by a blank puzzle grid, there are some good ways to start.

Start by tackling your gimmes. The easiest answers, or gimmes in crossword-speak are those that only require common knowledge and don't leave much room for ambiguity. This category includes many fill-in the-blanks that are given early in the week. You probably guessed 'Split PEA Soup' (44D), and 'TAJ MAHAL' (35D) in today's crossword puzzle without even thinking. Fill in all the blanks first.

Then go up, then across (or vice-versa). Crossword blinders are a great way to attack a column of clues and then move on to the next. As a puzzle novice with a tendency to distraction, this was one of my first strategies because it helped compartmentalize. I've found that if one column stumps me, the opposite will be filled with easy solutions.

Choose a corner. This is a different approach to crossword blinders. You work in one corner at a given time and check your answers by comparing them with their crosses. Imagine doing a series Minis to make a full crossword. Start somewhere else if you can't crack one corner.

Constructor Notes

We have worked together on other puzzles that have appeared in The Los Angeles Times Crosswords Club, and Universal Crossword. Grids for Kids is a crossword pack that raises funds for youth charities. We vetted the themes (which all relate to parenting!) Here's a puzzle: We are both parents and have the same number of children. The ages of these children add up to 14 and their numbers are consecutive. You can figure out how many kids we each have, and their ages.

Want to Submit Crosswords for The New York Times?

Note: Submissions are temporarily closed starting July 3, and will be reopened on July 17. During this time, the puzzle editors will be reviewing all submitted puzzles. You may hear from them even though submissions have closed.

Tips, Ahoy!

Still feeling adrift? .