Ms. Conceptions

New York Times, May 9

Well, it’s nice to see that the NYT celebrates Hallmark holidays, too.

As you might have guessed — after returning from braving the brunch crowds with your mom — today’s puzzle theme has to do with mothers. But not just any moms: the theme clues in this grid are all MOTHERS OF INVENTION (104 Across, “Rock group whose name is an appropriate alternative title for this puzzle”).

And where would we be today without the WINDSHIELD WIPER (88 Across, “Driving convenience created by Mary Anderson (1866-1953)”)? Or COBOL COMPUTER LANGUAGE (23 Across, “Programming tool created by Grace Hopper (1906-92)”); CIRCULAR SAW (64 Across, “Woodworking tool created by Tabitha Babbitt (1784-1853)”); DRUG FOR LEUKEMIA (50 Across, “Medical discovery of Gertrude Elion (1918-99)”); THE MODERN BRASSIERE (29 Acrosos, “Item of apparel created by Mary Phelps Jacob (18-91-1970)”); LIQUID PAPER (71 Across, “Office item created by Bette Nesmith Graham (1924-80)”); or, perhaps most important of all, the TOLL HOUSE COOKIE RECIPE (117 Across, “Food formula created by Ruth Wakefield (1903-77)”)?

I have to say the only mother-inventor I recognized was Bette Nesmith Graham, of LIQUID PAPER fame, because somewhere deep in the accumulations of trivia in my head was the urban legend that she was also the mother of Monkee Michael Nesmith. Turns out it’s true, and that she left her fortune to him.

But who were these other women who invented the modern bra and even a leukemia drug? I had to look them up. Here’s the story of Mary Phelps Jacob and Gertrude Elion, who shared a Nobel Prize in medicine/physiology in 1988. And don’t forget that Toll House Cookie recipe.

Other clues:

From the Philadelphia Shout-Out Department: 57 Across, “Rocky’s love”: ADRIAN

From the Modern Rock Department: Along with the previously cited MOTHERS OF INVENTION, there are also references to “Rock’s Van ____” HALEN (107 Down) and alt/Goth favorites the Cure (“‘There is ___ …’ (song by the Cure)”): NO IF. Now, I am a huge Cure fan, but I have to say I looked up that one on iTunes to hear the melody. Let’s just say it was #162 on the list of Cure songs, which explains why I’ve never heard of it. It’s from the 2000 album Bloodflowers, which I don’t ¬†remember and don’t recognize a single song from.


The final piece of this puzzle involves a bonus message spelled out in the circled letters and reading from left to right, top to bottom: HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY.

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

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