“Wonder-ful!” Debut?

Hi everyone … it’s been a while. Just wanted to let you know that I haven’t abandoned puzzling, and today I was lucky enough to make my constructing debut in The New York Times.


Master constructor Jeff Chen was kind enough to team up with me to make this crossword a reality. SPOILER ALERT: You can read more about it in the NYT “Wordplay” blog, but that post contains answers – so don’t read until you’re done solving! Hope you like it.

Crossword Hiatus

Crossword Kathy is on hiatus, but feel free to email questions or comments to katmath@gmail.com.

Happy puzzling!

We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident

New York Times crossword puzzle July 13 / Constructed by Tom McCoy

Even a week after July Fourth, the NYT puzzle continues to salute the Founding Fathers.

Today’s title refers to the Declaration of Independence, and the grid is filled with a few other “declarations” that are almost as famous … like I YAM WHAT I YAM (“Declaration from Popeye,” 35 Across). Hmmm. Thomas Jefferson is probably not amused.


_ BOYS WILL BE BOYS (“Classic excuse for some misdemeanors,” 23 Across)

_ WHAT’S DONE IS DONE (“Doubt-dispelling words from Lady Macbeth,” 43 Across)

_ HATERS GONNA HATE (“Words dismissive of detractors,” 97 Across)

_ IT IS WHAT IT IS (“Expression of resignation,” 105 Across)

_ ENOUGH IS ENOUGH (“‘We will tolerate this no more!’,” 121 Across)

_ IT AIN’T OVER TILL IT’S OVER. This “Famous Yogiism” (72 Across) refers not to a yoga instructor nor Yogi the Bear, but to baseball legend Yogi Berra. I had quite a few writeovers in that answer because I kept inadvertently correcting Berra’s grammar – first I entered IT’S NOT OVER TILL IT’S OVER, then IT ISN’T OVER TILL IT’S OVER. Finally, I figured out the AIN’T.

_ And the bonus declaration: A ROSE IS A ROSE IS A ROSE. This answer is referred to by an editor’s note at the top of the clues: “The circled letters, when read clockwise, will reveal a quote from Gertrude Stein.” The letters only spell out A ROSE IS, so it’s up to you to keep going ’round. (Honestly, I didn’t know it repeated itself twice; I had stopped at “A rose is a rose” until I looked up the poem.)

Pretty clever! And I’m impressed that Will Shortz allowed the ultra-modern HATERS GONNA HATE entry. I guess if you allow AIN’T, you have to acknowledge GONNA.

Oops Dept: In addition to the aforementioned AIN’T debacle, I also mistakenly entered ROLLER at 80 Across for “Holy ___,” which I later had to change to TERROR. I also was too quick on the draw at 108 Down, entering DYLAN for “Rocker Bob,” when the answer ended up being SEGER.

Doubled-Up Dept.: “Mercury or Earth” is an ORB (7 Down), while “Mercury, but not Earth” is a GOD (28 Across). And the twice-used clue “Follower of lop” yields SIDED (48 Across) and EARED (49 Across).

Seriously, You Expect Me To Remember High School Chemistry? Dept.: You bet your sweet bippy that I needed crossing words to help me get TITRATES at 64 Down (“Determines the concentration of a dissolved substance”).

Battleground State Dept.: “Fights” is HAS AT IT (44 Down) while “Send in troops, say” is START A WAR (47 Down).

Need some solving tips and tricks? I’ve posted some here. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below. You can also visit my Facebook page, or tweet me @crosswordkathy. And here’s a little more about me.

Oh, Say …

New York Times crossword puzzle July 6 / Constructed by Daniel C. Bryant

Happy Fourth! Or, as we say in the City of Brotherly Love, Happy Phourth!

It’s actually the Sixth of July, but the puzzle’s patriotic theme makes it feel like Independence Day all over again. The grid’s subject is none other than THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER (65 Across), written by FRANCIS SCOTT KEY (24 Across).

Oh, say, can you see ... the musical notes? (Click to enlarge.)
Oh, say, can you see … the musical notes? (Click to enlarge.)

The anthem has been in the news a lot lately as the nation marks its 200th anniversary. It was written in EIGHTEEN-FOURTEEN (30 Across), apparently while Key was involved in a PRISONER EXCHANGE (99 Across) during the War of 1812. The flag itself flew over Fort McHenry in BALTIMORE HARBOR (114 across). And the tune – once a BRITISH PUB SONG – has been sung countless times over two centuries, notably in 1991 by WHITNEY HOUSTON (88 Across).

But say, can you see what’s hidden in the shaded squares? They are the first notes to the song we know so well – SOL, MI, DO, MI, SOL, DO – placed in correlation to their position on sheet music. As you can see from my write-over at 8 Down, I thought these notes were located on a musical SCALE (which they are – C major, I think?) but the constructor was looking for the answer musical STAFF (“Locale for this puzzle’s shaded squares”).

A pretty easy crossword, but also informative –it made me curious enough to look up Key’s bio. Summary: He was a lawyer working to get a prominent doctor released from British custody when he witnessed the ultimately unsuccessful attack on Fort McHenry. Inspired by the sight of the flag, he wrote a poem whose words were later set to music. The tune became the national anthem on March 3, 1931; composer John Williams premiered a new arrangement of it on Friday in Washington.

Fun Facts Dept.: Other things I learned from this puzzle include the real name of a former “Tonight Show” host – James Douglas Muir LENO (57 Across). Also never heard of XERES, a Spanish town whose “name was the source of the word ‘sherry'” (103 Down). And did you know that ECUADOR (82 Across) is a “Country whose national currency is the U.S. dollar”?

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “Penn station?” is IVY LEAGUE (42 Down). The top-tier University of Pennsylvania, located here in Philly, goes by the nickname Penn – not Penn State!

Need some solving tips and tricks? I’ve posted some here. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below. You can also visit my Facebook page, or tweet me @crosswordkathy. And here’s a little more about me.

Downright Tricky!

New York Times crossword puzzle June 29 / Constructed by Byron Walden

If you’re looking for a hint on today’s clever puzzle, read the title literally.

“Downright” is the “tricky” way that you have to enter the six theme answers – that is, down and to the right. The L-shaped entries are all three-word phrases that start with C-I-D … which gives you EL CID (“Spanish hero whose (name) is represented enigmatically six times in this puzzle,” 108 Down).

When in doubt, read the title literally. (Click to enlarge.)
When in doubt, read the title literally. (Click to enlarge.)

I became suspicious of a gimmick as soon as I saw “Tricky” in the title. Then when crossing words gave me CANON _ at 13 Down (“Palchelbel classic, familiarly”), I knew more than one letter had to go in that last square.  It clicked when I noticed the DIXIE in WINN DIXIE (“Southern grocery chain,” 109 Across) happened to be at a “right” angle for a “down” answer involving a C&W group (“1982 holiday country hit by Alabama,” 50 Down). CHRISTMAS IN DIXIE fit perfectly with the bend.

Others: CHIVALRY IS DEAD (“Lament about modern men,” 8 Down), COVERED IN DUST (“Like the contents of many attics,” 38 Down), CONSIDER IT DONE (“‘Right away, boss’,” 71 Down), CRISIS IN DARFUR (“Major humanitarian concern of the 2000s,” 32 Down) and the aforementioned CANON IN D by Pachelbel.

The Times ran a similar puzzle last year titled “Capital Ls,” which also used words entered at right angles. My only quibble with today’s is that some of the L answers didn’t dead-end: CHRISTMAS IN DIXIE ended with a black square, but COVERED IN DUST actually reads COVERED IN DUSTRIES before you hit a black square; same with CANON IN D BID.

What did you think?

For Fun Dept.: There was a lot of great fill in this puzzle, which makes up for the relative lack of theme entries. Among my favorites are YES, INDEED! (“‘Of course!’,” 56 Down), PADDED BRA (“Drag staple,” 100 Across), I HAD A HUNCH (“‘That’s what my Spidey sense told me’,” 3 Down), OFF BALANCE (“Bad way to be caught,” 77 Down), SALT MINING (“Enterprise for Morton,” 74 Down), YEARLY PHYSICAL (“Routine checkup,” 51 Across), FILM INDUSTRIES (“Hollywood and Bollywood, e.g.,” 86 Across) and I’VE MADE A DECISION (“Statement after long deliberation,” 67 Across).

Say What? Dept.: PICARO (“Rogue,” 100 Down) and ESTIVATE (“Stay inactive over the summer,” 58 Across) were both new words to me.

Who Knew? Dept.: “Material in the hats of Buckingham Palace guards” is BEAR FUR (89 Across). And I have never heard of a species called SPIKED ACES, which apparently are “Ray-finned fishes of the Southwest U.S.” (17 Down). When I tried to Google for a photo or even a written definition, all I came up with were references to this puzzle. Anyone else? (UPDATE: Kind readers have informed me the fishes are SPIKE DACES. See comments below.)

Blast From The Past Dept.: “It’s Tricky” by Run-DMC was one of the anthems of the 1980s. I looked up the video out of a sense of nostalgia and found it co-stars Penn and Teller! Awesome.


Need some solving tips and tricks? I’ve posted some here. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below. You can also visit my Facebook page, or tweet me @crosswordkathy. And here’s a little more about me.

Dime Store

New York Times crossword puzzle June 22 / Constructed by Elizabeth C. Gorski

Brother, can you spare a dime? If not, you can find one in this puzzle.

More precisely, you can find TEN CENTS – literally 10 squares where the ¢ symbol appears. All the theme answers contain the word CENT, with the added twist that the C should be entered as a ¢ sign. That allows it to function as a C for across answers and an I for down answers:

Make cents? (Click to enlarge.)
Make cents? (Click to enlarge.)

_ ¢ENTENNIAL (“2014, for Doublemint gum,” 23 Across) crosses with TAIL (“Dangerous part of an alligator,” 1 Down). IRIDES-¢ENT (“Like mother-of-pearl,” 44 Across) crosses with ISLIP (“Town on the south shore of Long Island,” 45 Down).

_ VI¢ENTE FOX (“Mexican president of the early 2000s,” 25 Across) crosses with the first I in PAIN PILL (“Percocet, for one,” 12 Down). The second I crosses with the C in ¢ENTRIST (“Middle-of-the-road,” 40 Across).

_ ¢ENTIPEDES (“Bugs that are technically misnamed,” 70 Across) crosses with WRITE-UPS (“Articles in a paper,” 58 Down). PER¢ENTAGE (“Agent’s cut,” 93 Across) crosses with TOMEI (“Actress who co-starred in ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’,” 71 Down).

_ I’M INNO¢ENT (“Defendant’s cry,” 116 Across) crosses with IAN (“Actor McKellen,” 117 Down). DE¢ENT MEAL (“Something square to eat?” 113 Across) crosses with AIDE (“Right hand,” 106 Down). And RE¢ENT PAST (“Several days ago, say,” 66 Across) crosses with IRON-ON (“Like some patches,” 68 Down).

What do all those ¢ add up to? TEN ¢ENTS (“Total value of the symbols created by the special crossings in this puzzle,” 96 Across). (That answer itself crosses with I SWEAR at 97 Down – “‘Honest!'”)

Pretty cool, huh? I generally love puzzles by constructor Elizabeth C. Gorski, and this creative one was no exception. Some of the fill was a bit cheesy, though. Since when is SMOOTHEN a word (“Sand, maybe,” 101 Across)? I usually just say “smooth.” And I’ve never heard of the THI – or seen it used in a crossword. It’s apparently short for Temperature-Humidity Index (“Summer weather stat.” 29 Down). And STU Jackson was barely an NBA coach (88 Down), though he was a league executive for a while.  (Phil Jackson, on the other hand … )

That said, I liked STATE DEPT (“Hillary Clinton’s domain, once: Abbr.” 80 Down), SPEED TRAP (“Where many tickets are distributed,” 2 Down) and THE NILE (“Agatha Christie mystery setting,” 5 Down).

Memory Lane Dept.: Puzzle editor Will Shortz ran a crossword with a similar monetary theme last year. Constructor Daniel A. Finan that incorporated both $ and ¢ symbols in a clever grid called “Show Me The Money.”

Fun Facts Dept.: TULANE is the “Southern university whose newspaper is the Hullabaloo” (65 Across). “Of Peter O’Toole’s eight Oscar nominations,” he’s won NONE (120 Across). And the “Youngest-ever French Open winner, 1990” is Monica SELES (53 Down), who recently got engaged to billionaire Tom Golisano.

Need some solving tips and tricks? I’ve posted some here. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below. You can also visit my Facebook page, or tweet me @crosswordkathy. And here’s a little more about me.


New York Times crossword puzzle June 15 / Constructed by Tony Orbach

Boy, dads sure got the shaft considering the royal crossword treatment moms got on Mother’s Day. But they really shouldn’t complain, considering this was a pretty easy puzzle to solve. Happy Father’s Day!

The theme – like the one a couple of weeks ago – is a literal interpretation of the title. In the previous grid titled “Aladdin,” the letters AL were added to common phrases (AL-ADD-IN); today, constructor Tony Orbach tried to “Enrich” phrases by adding EN.

So a “Naval officer who’s an expert in astrology?” is an ENSIGN OF THE ZODIAC (99 Across). And a “Religious ceremony for two Hollywood brothers?” is a COEN ORDINATION (111 Across), for siblings Joel and Ethan Coen (of “Fargo” fame, among many others).

Others: “Episode title for a cooking show featuring chicken recipes?” is PREPARATION HEN (23 Across). “Goal for a comic working the Strip?” is LEAVENING LAS VEGAS (32 Across). “Informal advice to an overeager picker?” is LET ‘ER RIPEN (47 Across). “Request to represent a Minnesota senator’s side of a debate?” is CAN I BE FRANKEN (67 Across)? And “Tarzan’s response when asked if the noodles are cooked?” is RAMEN TOUGH (82 Across), a somewhat obscure reference to a Dodge truck slogan.

Along Those Lines Dept.: The puzzle also contained ENRAGE (“Incense,” 17 Down) and EN-DASH, the typographical term for “-” (90 Down).

To The Point Dept.: “Bit of needlework?” is TAT (43 Across), while “Do some needlework” is SEW (45 Down). And a “Writing tip” is a PEN NIB (65 Across).

For Fun Dept.: Interesting fill in the puzzle included PB AND J (“Sack lunch staple, for short,” 1 Across), PERFECT TEN (“Beauty ideal,” 16 Down) and PONIED UP (“Forked over,” 51 Down). And the “Option for ‘Which came first …?'” is not the chicken, but THE EGG (12 Down).

Born From Jets Dept.: The clue that stumped me was “What a 9-5 worker worked on?” I had SAA_ entered at 45 Across but could not for the life of me fill in the last box. The answer is SAAB, which once made a poorly punctuated car model called the 9-5. Looks like the Swedish automaker might be making vehicles again, two years after production shut down.

Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me? Dept.: I’m just a tad jealous of 23-year-old Anna Shechtman, who I just learned spent her first year out of college as an assistant to crossword editor Will Shortz. Had I known such a job existed when I was that young, I would have spent more time constructing puzzles and less time covering small-town school board meetings. Still, I’m thrilled at the idea of bringing fresh young talent into the puzzle kingdom. And I’m guessing if you ask her “You dig?”, she’ll reply I’M HIP (84 Across).

Need some solving tips and tricks? I’ve posted some here. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below. You can also visit my Facebook page, or tweet me @crosswordkathy. And here’s a little more about me.

Solving the Sunday NYT crossword puzzle so you don't have to.