Them’s the Breaks

New York Times, March 21

Looking for a break? This puzzle was filled with them — nine, in fact — if you knew how to find them.

These “breaks” recalibrate common words or phrases by separating them at different points to create new phrases. Thus someone who “Illuminates a Halloween display?” LIGHTS WITCHES (100 Across), a play on “light switches.” Someone who “Puts hats on display?” SHOWS TOPPERS (122 Across); someone who “Prepares to play Scrabble?” TURNS TILES (16 Down); someone who “Makes drugs easier to swallow?” OILS PILLS (57 Down); and, my favorite, someone who “Monitors food orders to go?” POLICES TAKEOUTS (69 Across).

Others: DOUBLES PACES (23 Across, “Goes from walk to trot, and trot to gallop?”; TRAINS POTTERS (38 Across, “Teaches a ceramics class?”; TAILS PINS (38 Down, “Closely follows secret banking information,” as in PINs for ATM cards); and LANDS CAPES (74 Down, “Manages to grab some bullfight attire?”

Cool Words Department: Fitting WYSIWYG (51 Across, “Word-processing acronym,” for What You See Is What You Get) in the grid was simply awesome — so creative that I will forgive the ancient answer AYLA that crosses with it (45 Down, “‘The Clan of the Cave Bear’ heroine”). That book was a best-seller when I was in junior high — maybe even elementary school — but hasn’t resurfaced since. (And it was turned into a remarkably bad movie with Daryl Hannah, if memory serves.)

“Who Knew?” Department: JAPAN WAX (119 Across, “Ingredient in furniture polishes”) had me running for my can of Pledge to double-check if I had it right; I’ve never heard of the stuff, but what a great crossword entry. And it turns out OPEC (117 Down) is headquartered in Austria, even though Austria isn’t a member.

That Was Cheap Department: 108 Across, “Group defeated in ’65” is CSA, for Confederate States of America, which was defeated in 1865.

How Serendipitous Department: On the day of the health care reform vote, the last clue in the puzzle (129 Across) was amazingly appropriate: “Insurance holder’s burden,” for COPAY.

I’m hoping my next blog entry will be an applet with my first puzzle as a constructor.

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

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