Closing the Deal

New York Times, March 22 (UPDATED)

When I first saw the title to this puzzle, I thought it would probably mean the theme answers had something extra added on to the end — thus “closing the deal.”

And as I started working my way through the clues, it seemed like the closing letters would even be the closing letters of the alphabet: X, Y and Z. I seemed to be finding them in theme-length answers, including PIZZERIA UNO (119 Across, “Classic name in chain restaurants) and EX-MARINES (23 Across, “Corps Veterans”) and YOM KIPPUR WAR (50 Across, “Conflict of 1973”). But they weren’t exactly closing any deals.

But I had my “A-ha!” moment as I filled in 27 Across, “Engagement gift”: DIAMOND SOLITAIRE. Not a ring, but a SOLITAIRE — a card game. All of a sudden the YOM KIPPUR WAR made sense, as did PIZZERIA UNO — both were favorite childhood card games. (And EX-MARINES wasn’t a theme answer after all.)

It didn’t take me long to close the rest of the “deals” after that.

UPDATE: The Times actually published a correction on a clue to this puzzle in the April 5 edition of the NYT Magazine. The clue for 57 Across, “Showcase Showdown prize, perhaps?” yielded the answer DINETTE SET. Cute, but as any veteran watcher of “The Price is Right” should know, the Showcase Showdown is the preliminary round where contestants spin the wheel and try to get closest to $1 in order to appear in the plain old Showcase — and win a dinette set.

I should have been hip to that, considering my college roommate was actually ON “The Price is Right” and won both the Showcase Showdown AND the Showcase. She did, indeed, win a dinette set if memory serves, along with a brass room divider and a satellite TV system (this was 1989, mind you).

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

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