New York Times crossword Sept. 25 / Constructed by Paul Hunsberger

Good thing I’ve been going to yoga classes recently. It put me in the right frame of mind for today’s puzzle, which involves contortions of a different kind. Specifically, the theme answers take the letter N in various common phrases and twist it onto its side, rendering it into a Z. (Thus the puzzle’s title, “En-twisted” — get it?) So the “Result of being badly beaned?” is GREAT DAZE (21 Across), one N-twist away from GREAT DANE.

Others: “Scraping gadget with nothing in it?” is an EMPTY ZESTER (23 Across); “Pale yellow-shelled sea creature?” is a MAIZE LOBSTER (45 Across); “View the effects of a big lunch in court?” is SEE JUSTICE DOZE (60 Across); “Fluorescent candy?” is HIGHLIGHTER PEZ (67 Across); “‘Cheers’ spinoff mania?” is FRASIER CRAZE (92 Across); “Hapless Roman ruler?” is EMPEROR ZERO (113 Across); and “Taser for children?” is a KID ZAPPER (115 Across).

Fun Phrases Dept.: “No worries” is IT’S ALL GOOD (13 Down); “Why not!” is WHAT THE HEY (27 Down), which I have to admit I first entered as WHAT THE HAY. I never knew.

Parks and Rec Dept.: “Funny Poehler” is AMY (98 Across), formerly of “Saturday Night Live” and now of the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation.” Have to say that last night’s season premiere of SNL with Alec Baldwin was actually pretty funny (though I bailed after “Weekend Update”); I laughed at this sketch about a TV reporter in Costa Rica. Speaking of Alec Baldwin on SNL, did you see that Ben & Jerry’s made a real ice cream flavor based on his classic “Schweddy Balls” skit?

Sports Center Dept.: The Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL (“CBS’s ‘The ___ Today’,” 34 Across) played their home opener today against the New York Giants. (It wasn’t pretty.) Quarterback Michael Vick may have called HIKE! (“Cry after a series of numbers,” 29 Across) on the field, but I couldn’t hear it from my couch at home. These Giants, by the way, are not the same team mentioned in 12 Down: “Giant who made ‘The Catch,’ 1954.” That would be Willie MAYS, who played with the New York (later San Francisco) Giants of baseball. A picture of “The Catch” is here.

Guilty As Charged Dept.: “Quiz bowl lover, say” is a NERD (16 Down). Full disclosure: One of my favorite things to do in Philly is play Quizzo at the Black Sheep pub on Wednesday nights with Johnny Goodtimes.

Where Do Babies Come From? Dept.: “Vlasic pickles mascot” is a STORK (53 Across). “That babies come from a 53-Across, e.g.” is a MYTH (55 Across). Huh. Go figure.

Citizen Kane Dept.: “California’s ___ Castle” is HEARST (71 Down). Really wanted to see that on my West Coast trip last month but just couldn’t fit it in. Maybe next time.

Philly -Area Shout Out Dept.: Crossword constructors love the Welsh name of the elite women’s school just up the road: Bryn MAWR College (1 Across).

Questions or comments? Leave them here, visit my Facebook page or tweet me @crosswordkathy.


New York Times crossword Sept. 18 / Constructed by Josh Knapp

Don’t touch that dial!

Don’t squeeze the Charmin!

Don’t you dare!

And, of course, the famous Brady Bunch admonition: Don’t play ball in the house!

Those are just a few of life’s familiar “Don’t!” phrases that didn’t make it into this puzzle. But eight no-nos are featured in the grid, all with the simple clue “Don’t … !”: PLAY WITH MATCHES (23 Across); MESS WITH TEXAS (38 Across); BELIEVE THE HYPE (52 Across); QUIT YOUR DAY JOB (73 Across); QUOTE ME ON THIS (88 Across); TALK TO STRANGERS (103 Across); MOVE A MUSCLE (16 Down); and the Simpsonian HAVE A COW, MAN! (62 Down).

Speaking of Bart Dept.: The “Homeric cry?” in 60 Across — D’OH! — refers to his donut-eating father, not the author of the Odyssey.

Family Tree Dept.: A pair of “Biblical twin” clues led to JACOB (31 Down) and ESAU (109 Across). Also mentioned: ABEL (“Biblical shepherd,” 20 Across).

Polar Opposites Dept.: You can find a “Total hottie” — TEN — at 18 Down in the uppermost right corner. Diagonally opposite, in the lower left corner, is “Definitely not a hottie” — HAG (101 Down).

All in Good Fun Dept.: “Basic skateboarding trick” is an OLLIE (32 Down). And BEACH BALL is paired with SEAL (“One may be seen on a 28-Across’s nose,” 3 Down).

Wordplay Dept.: Clever or unusual entries include QWERTY (“Kind of keyboard,” 88 Across); PIMP (“Trick out, as a car,” 113 Across); TYRA (“Banks on a runway,” 71 Down); HOT-WIRE (“Start without permission?” 93 Across); and ADVERB (“Now or never,” 99 Across).

I’d Like to Thank the Academy Dept.: “France’s equivalent to an Oscar” is a CESAR (48 Down). Along those lines, the Emmy Awards are being given out tonight.

In Memoriam: “Hurricane of 2011” is IRENE (81 Across). As you may know, Irene was largely a bust in the places most worried about it — Philly, NYC and the Jersey Shore. But it devastated Vermont, washing out roads and bridges and cutting off many towns. My AP colleague John Curran, Vermont’s bureau chief, tirelessly covered the devastation and the residents affected by it, even traveling by ATV to get to newly isolated places like Rochester. I was stunned to learn that John died suddenly over the weekend. His death is a tremendous loss for both the AP and the public.

Questions or comments? Leave them here, visit my Facebook page or tweet me @crosswordkathy.


New York Times crossword Sept. 11 / Constructed by Kay Anderson

I’m blogging from the road again. This weekend I’m in Glens Falls, N.Y., which pretty much lives up to its nickname of “Hometown, USA” with an old-fashioned main street and gazeboed downtown park. But more on that later.

Today’s puzzle throws you for a curve — or, more accurately, a corner. The theme clues, which are helpfully italicized, all yield answers that turn at right angles. I’ve used a ballpoint pen to show a couple of them in the grid below; unfortunately, I don’t have any highlighters with me to show all the interior ones.

The upper right and lower left quadrants have examples of answers that "corner."

Basically, the last letter of the first word doubles as the first letter of the next word: “Part of a boxer’s training” (95 Down) is JUMPING ROPE, where the G doubles as the end of JUMPING and the first letter of GROPE (“Really feel for?” 131 Across). Same goes for “Title figure in an Aesop fable” (14 Across): GRASS HOPPER, where the S is also the first letter of SHOPPER (“Ad-filled weekly,” 18 Down).

Others, with the common corner letter underlined: “Nitty-gritty, as of negotiations” is BRASS TACKS (1 Across); “Work on at a desk, say” is HUNCH OVER (58 Across); “Bracket shape” is a RIGHT ANGLE (77 Across); “Ernest and Julio Gallo product” is MERLOT WINE (35 Down); “Usual amount to pay” is the GOING RATE (57 Down); and “It’s pitched for a large audience” is a CIRCUS TENT (107 Down).

Sucking Up Dept.: Every crossword geek knows Will Shortz is NPR’s puzzlemaster on Sundays. Is he looking for a raise? Because 55 Across is STAMBERG (“Susan of NPR,” 55 Across).

Happily Ever After Dept.: In Paris, the phrase “Once upon a time” becomes “‘Il etait UNE fois …’ (French fairy-tale starter)” (103 Across).

Kodachrome Dept.: “Time it takes to develop a set of photos, maybe” is ONE HOUR (96 Down). That is, if you can still find a camera that uses film.

High Holidays Dept.: The Jewish New Year is coming up at the end of the month, when you might hear “‘L’shanah TOVAH!’ (Rosh Hashana greeting)” (22 Across).

Shake and Bake Dept.: “Alabama speedway locale” is TALLADEGA (124 Across), which I only know because of “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” Will Ferrell’s send-up of NASCAR.

New York, New York Dept.: “N.Y.C. landmark” is THE U.N. (71 Down). The city is also the focus of an exhibit at The Hyde Collection museum here in Glens Falls. My husband took one of the photos in the exhibit — a powerful image of Ground Zero on Sept. 12, 2001 — and his gallery talk featuring other pictures from that day was a moving way to spend the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Questions or comments? Leave them here, visit my Facebook page or tweet me @crosswordkathy.

That’s Disgusting!

New York Times crossword Sept. 4 / Constructed by Dana Delany and Matt Ginsberg

Ew! That was my first instinct upon seeing the “disgusting” title of today’s puzzle. I figured the theme would tweak common phrases by inserting the letters EW. But that idea was nixed when I ended up solving 6 Down (“Ick!”) as EEW … and I soon came to realize that “Ick!” — actually IC — is the trick. The theme answers are common phrases with the addition of the letters IC: “Superman’s attire, e.g.?” is a CLASSIC ACTION SUIT (29 Across).

Others: “Farm pails?” are RUSTIC BUCKETS (40 Across); “Vacation spot that’s crazily busy?” is THE ISLE OF MANIC (3 Down); “Prank involving a hammer and nails?” is a CARPENTER ANTIC (51 Down); “Something talked about on ‘Today’?” is TOPIC OF THE MORNING.

Some answers were phonetic:  “Heads-up in Ireland?” is a GAELIC WARNING (22 Across), for “gale warning”; “Fancy garb for Caesar?” is a FINE TUNIC (70 Across), for “fine tune”; “‘I feel the earth move under my feet,’ e.g.?” is a KING LYRIC (64 Across), for singer Carole King and “King Lear”; “Extremely occult?” is GREATLY MYSTIC (111 Across), for “greatly missed”; and “Antisthenes, notably?” is the ORIGINAL CYNIC (83 Across), for Original Sin. Confession: I solved that last one despite never having heard of Antisthenes, so I looked him up.

Continuing the Theme Dept: “Bitter, in a way” is TANNIC (41 Down) while “Suffix with problem” is ATIC (27 Down).

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “Paris’s Musee ___” (67 Across) is RODIN. It so happens we have our very own Rodin Museum in Philadelphia. The building was a gift to the city from movie theater magnate Jules Mastbaum, who spent three years amassing the largest collection of Rodin’s works outside Paris, according to the museum’s website. Turns out to be a timely reference, as apparently the museum is closing for renovations on Tuesday and won’t reopen until late spring 2012.

Philly-Area Shout-Out Dept.: “What Bryn Mawr College is not” _ COED (43 Down).

Now I Get It Dept.: “Beverage whose logo was once the bottom half of woman’s legs” (19 Across) is NEHI, a drink I have often entered into crossword grids despite never having tried it (and not knowing how to pronounce it). The logo would have given me a phonetic hint (“knee high”).

Long and Short of It Dept.: The clue-to-answer character ratio is way off in 105 Across. “Surrealist who avoided the draft by writing the day’s date in every space on his induction paperwork” is ARP. You can read a bit more about the artist here.

Star Power Dept.: Actress Dana Delany is the co-constructor of today’s puzzle. Will Shortz gave a hint about that a couple of weeks ago.

And holy crap, how did it get to be September already?

Questions or comments? Leave them here, visit my Facebook page or tweet me @crosswordkathy.

Pardon ‘E’ Interruption

New York Times crossword Aug. 28 / Constructed by Patrick Berry

Profuse apologies for the lateness of this post; it’s now Sept. 3. I’ll explain later, but basically Hurricane Irene washed out last week’s delivery of the NYT.

So … on to the puzzle. This week’s title, which brings to mind the similarly named ESPN show, pretty much gives away the theme: Common phrases are tweaked into humorous answers by the addition of  a long “E” sound. I’ll take the one that pays homage to the mascot of Boston University — my alma mater! — as an example: “Canine king’s regime?” is a REIGN OF TERRIER (26 Across). Go BU! Beat BC!

Others: “Lively dance performed as a six-pack is being laid to rest?” is a BEER BURIAL POLKA (23 Across); “Eco-warriors?” are BOTANICAL GUARDIANS (41 Across); “Encounter with an Alaskan bear?” is a KODIAK MOMENT (56 Across); “Set of shot glasses for Christmas?” is a PARTYING GIFT (76 Across); “Sharpshooter Oakley when she was a charming young musician?” is LITTLE ORPHEAN ANNIE (89 Across); “Interstellar valet’s jobs?” is PARKING METEORS (108 Across); and “Ship info kept for the Spanish Armada?” is MILES PER GALLEON (113 Across).

Greed Is Good Dept.: Is it a coincidence that “‘Wall Street’ character Gordon ___” GEKKO (44 Down) crosses with CITIBANK (“Beneficiary of a 2008 bailout,” 59 Across)?

Slam Dunk Dept.: “Dennis of the court” is RODMAN (93 Down), the flamboyant bad boy recently inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. And, not sure who is responsible for this unfortunate phrasing, but the “All-Star Dick of the 1960s-’70s Knicks” is BARNETT (60 Down). I’m sure he’s a really nice guy.

Philly-Area Shout Out Dept.: “Valley ___” is FORGE (106 Down).

A Maori carving at Waitangi.

Excuse For Vacation Photos Dept.: “Native New Zealander” is a MAORI (88 Across). We saw lots of Maori carvings (right) at Waitangi when we visited in 2009.

They’re Baaaaaaack Dept.: My husband had an otherworldly urge to watch “Poltergeist” the other night, a film I hadn’t seen since it came out back in the ’80s. Now I remember why I feared CLOSETS (“Bogeymen’s hiding places,” 14 Down).

Roll Tide Dept.: “Tuscaloosa university, for short” is ‘BAMA (75 Down), which opened its football season today (Sept. 3) with a 48-7 routing of Kent State. It was an emotional scene at the stadium, which was hosting the first game since a deadly tornado devastated the city last spring.

Fish Tale Dept.: Speaking of natural disasters, Hurricane Irene barreled through Philly last weekend. I was called out to work on Sunday; luckily, the city was largely spared the nightmare visited on the residents of Vermont and upstate New York. But that’s why I didn’t blog last week … well, that and the fact that apparently the storm prevented delivery of the NYT to Philly newsstands. I know, I know — I wouldn’t have this problem if I subscribed online. My husband makes fun of me all the time for buying dead trees, as he calls newspapers, but old habits die hard. So I found the Aug. 28 puzzle in the Sept. 4 Philadelphia Inquirer, which publishes the syndicated version. (And the Inky puts out an early Sunday edition on Saturday, which is why I’m posting today.)

Questions or comments? Leave them here, visit my Facebook page or tweet me @crosswordkathy.