Letter Openers

New York Times crossword Jan. 23 / Constructed by Chris A. McGlothlin

This is one of those puzzles where you wonder if the hardest part of constructing it was coming up with the theme answers – all 26 of them.

“Letter Openers” is an alphabetical tour through things that happen to start with a single letter, like Y CHROMOSOME (“*Women just don’t get it,” 116 Across); E STREET BAND (“*The Boss’s backers,” 26 Across); and K-TEL (“*’As Seen on TV’ company,” 54 Down).

Each theme clue was preceded by an asterisk, and it became pretty clear to me – even before I hit 95 Down (“From __ Z [how this puzzle goes?]”) – that there would be one for every letter of the alphabet. Others include B-MOVIE (“*‘Plan 9 From Outer Space,’ e.g.,” 13 Down); D-DAY (“*Setting for ‘Saving Private Ryan’,” 29 Across); and J-LO (“*4x platinum album of 2001,” 88 Across).

I don’t think this was planned, but the timing of one theme answer was particularly poignant: O-RING (“*Gasket type,” 17 Across). Hard to believe, but it was 25 years ago this week that the O-rings failed on the space shuttle Challenger, killing seven astronauts. My colleague Kathy McCormack writes in a story today that the memory of teacher-astronaut Christa McAuliffe remains vivid for the residents of her small New Hampshire town.

Philly References Dept.: “Yo, she was Adrian” is TALIA (1 Across), for actress Talia Shire in the “Rocky” movies. (Trivia: Adrian Balboa’s fictional gravestone, used in “Rocky Balboa,” was placed at Philadelphia’s historic Laurel Hill Cemetery.) Also, “Scranton-to-Philadelphia dir.” is SSE (48 Down), as some fans of Dunder-Mifflin might know.

Mural of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy

Armchair Traveler Dept.: “Town in Umbria” is ASSISI (102 Down), which I actually visited for the first time last spring. A dear friend had a destination wedding in Umbria and a few of us took some side trips in the days leading up to the nuptials. It’s the home of St. Francis (San Francesco), patron saint of Italy.

Belated Honor Dept.: “Author who won a posthumous Pulitzer in 1958” is James AGEE, who wrote ‘A Death in the Family.’

Thems A Lot Of Ns Dept.: The clues for both 42- and 45 Across were “N N N” – the first set were NUS, the Greek letter, while the second set were regular old ENS.

Beyond POTUS Dept.: An “Obama nickname” is NO DRAMA (92 Down), the total opposite of Kevin Dillon in “Entourage.”

Haha Dept.: “Exercise one is prone to do” is a PUSH-UP (32 Down).

Questions or comments? Tweet me @crosswordkathy or visit my Facebook page.

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2 thoughts on “Letter Openers”

  1. Hi,
    RE: Letter Openers” crossword Sunday, Jan 30.
    Look at 55 across could be “sow” mother animal(dam) or “sew” as in sew up. except that 40 down is “ole”
    What do you think?

  2. I think maybe the “r” and the “n” in your 55 Across clue have run together? The clue is “D-a-r-n,” not “D-a-m.”

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