3 X 8

New York Times, Aug. 8

Meh. A perfectly serviceable puzzle, with some clever answers, and yet … sigh. It just left me feeling a bit wanting.

The “3×8” in the title refers to eight answers that each had three letters circled. The letters turned out to spell common abbreviations, like FBI or CIA; the theme answers were witty definitions of the abbreviations. For instance, 48 Down (“Cross of ‘Desperate Housewives'”) is MARCIA, with the CIA circled (sorry, my fonts aren’t that fancy); then 50 Down (“See circled letters in 48-Down”) is ESPIONAGE GROUP.

Others: 1 Across (“One-named teen idol of the late ’50s/early ’60s”) is FABIAN;  111 Across, referencing FBI, is CRIME FIGHTERS. 13 Down (“They can always be counted on”) is ABACI; 61 Across, referencing ABC, is LOST NETWORK (which I hope means “Lost” the TV show and not an abysmal place in the Nielsen ratings). 96 Down (“Prevent”) is ESTOP; 22 Across, referencing ESP, is TELEPATH’S GIFT. 79 Down (“Laze”) is LOLL; 39 Across, referencing LOL, is WEB GIGGLE. 62 Down (“Rash remedies”) is TALCS; 70 Across, referencing TLC, is R.N. SPECIALTY (for nurses). 89 Down (“Wee”) is the understatement-of-the-year ATOMIC; 88 Across, referencing ATM, is the very clever CASH CACHE. And 65 Across (“Very reverent”) is PIOUS; 16 Down, referencing IOU, is PROMISSARY NOTE.

Hard to explain, but somehow my normal aha! moment was more like an oh-yeah moment with this puzzle. I think I would have been slightly more impressed if each word containing the abbreviation had the letters all in a row, as was the case in PIOUS and LOLL, but not ABACI or ATOMIC.

Formalities Dept.: 54 Down (“Candy giant, informally”) is NESTLE’S, which I thought was its full, formal name. Turns out the official name is simply NESTLE. (See also: Tiffany & Co.)

Questions or comments? Tweet me @crosswordkathy.

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