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.
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).