New York Times, March 29
Bonjour! This puzzle had a French flair not immediately obvious from its title. It was also one of those puzzles that my boyfriend would describe as “not fair,” because it doesn’t follow the basic rule of crossword puzzledom: one letter per square.
I realized this after I had filled in nearly all the letters for 10 Down, “Insurance giant” — A_NA — and 21 Across, “1986 self-titled album whose cover was Andy Warhol’s last work” — AR_HA. The only insurance giant I know that could possibly use those letters is AETNA, which would mean squeezing the ET into a single square. Conveniently, squeezing ET into that square also gave me ARETHA.
I knew then that was the gimmick, but I still didn’t get the “architectural drawing” until I had solved 26 Across, “1951 Oscar-winning film whose title suggests a visitor to the 118-Across” — AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. That pretty much gave away that 118 Across (“Landmark inaugurated 3/31/1889 whose shape is suggested by nine squares in this puzzle’s completed grid”) is EIFFEL TOWER.
At that point, you can pretty much figure the “ET” in the squeezed box stands for “Eiffel Tower,” and that there will be eight more you can “connect” to form a rudimentary Eiffel Tower shape. My favorite was the central clue, 74 Across, “Modern traveler’s purchase.” The answer — E-TICKET — required squeezing ET into both the first and last box. Pretty cool.
You’ll notice the date of the tower’s inauguration in 118 Across means it is celebrating its 120th birthday this year. Bon alors, joyeux anniversaire a la Tour Eiffel!
Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy