That’s Amore

New York Times, Feb. 14

Sorry for the late post; I’m on CST today. That’s actually relevant to the love-themed puzzle since, well, I’m visiting my husband at our lovely Midwest pied-a-terre. He is teaching this semester at the University of Missouri, and let me tell you there is no place like Columbia in February. That’s amore for you.

At least it has less snow than Philadelphia.

Anyway … I guess the crossword theme is to be expected, seeing as how it’s Valentine’s Day: WHAT IS LOVE? (23 Across, “1993 dance hit, and a question answered seven times in this puzzle.”)

Though I deduced the answer almost immediately, with the help of some crossing words, I’m embarrassed to say that I couldn’t hear the song in my head. I know the bopping Howard Jones song “What Is Love?” circa 1984-ish, but had to look up the 1993 version … and found a YouTube video by Haddaway. Huh? Haddaway? Never. Heard. Of. Him. Then I hit “play” on the video and instantly recognized the opening verse — wasn’t that the song Chris Kattan and Kevin Nealon mocked on SNL and in “A Night at the Roxbury”? My only excuse, I guess, is that 1993 was in the middle of my alternative radio days (WFNX in Boston). But still — Haddaway? Really? Wow. Did anyone else know who sang that? Or is he the one-hit wonder question that stumps everyone?

So what is love? The answers are BLIND (10 Across, Shakespeare); FRIENDSHIP SET TO MUSIC (32 Across, Joseph Campbell); THE BEAUTY OF THE SOUL (52 Across, St. Augustine); SHARING YOUR POPCORN (78 Across, Charles Schulz); A MANY-SPLENDORED THING (102 Across, Frank Sinatra); ALL YOU NEED (114 Across, the Beatles); and A ROSE (123 Across, Neil Young). I solved them all, but had to look up a bio on Joseph Campbell — apparently he was an American mythologist. The Charles Schulz reference made me smile; Snoopy making popcorn for Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving is one of those priceless “Peanuts” moments that is nothing short of poignant.

As for the layout, I’m a little surprised the black squares aren’t in the shape of a heart or something similarly Cupidesque. Even the central words in the grid have nothing to do with the love-y theme: 68 Across, “Lynn Fontanne and her husband,” is LUNTS, while 55 Down, “Kind of sax,” is TENOR.

Other clues that caught my eye: 5 Down, “Hall of ‘Coming to America'” — if this is how ARSENIO is best known, well, geez; 15 Down, “Assignations, slangily” — now I know a fancy word for HOOKUPS; and, just as I was stunned by the “Avatar” reference in a puzzle a couple of weeks ago, I’m again surprised at the uber-current reference to another Oscar-nominated movie in 106 Down, “Carl’s lifelong companion in ‘Up’ — ELLIE. Maybe I should see it.

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

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