Weather Report

New York Times crossword Jan. 15 / Constructed by Finn Vigeland

A weather report? I gotcher weather report right here: I was 60 degrees warmer at this time yesterday. Yes, it was 85 glorious degrees in sunny Aruba, not the 25 degrees it is now in Philadelphia. So what more hurt could a weather-related puzzle inflict?

Well, it could add a little rain. Or a lot of rain. Which is what clever constructor Finn Vigeland did in this fun puzzle, where IT’S RAINING CATS AND DOGS (“Weather comment represented visually by this puzzle’s circled letters,” 66 Across). You’ll find all kinds of furry, four-legged breeds hidden in the theme answers: CALICO, BEAGLE, MANX, PERSIAN, POODLE and BOXER.

Here’s how they break out (I’ve underlined and bolded the circled letters, since I can’t circle them here): CABLE SITCOMS (“Shows that can be racier than their network counterparts,” 39 Down); BREAKING THE RULES (“Cheating,” 41 Down); MASON-DIXON LINE (“It’s north of the South,” 31 Down); ANTI-PERSPIRANT (“You probably raise your arm for this,” 29 Down); PHONOGRAPH NEEDLE (“It’s lowered to hear music,” 13 Down); and BRONX BOMBERS (“Big Apple team,” 34 Down).

Other Long Answers Dept.: The grid was filled with lots of creative, non-theme answers as well. “Dream setting” (22 Across) is a CASTLE IN SPAIN — a reference to daydreaming — while an “Artificial plot device” (114 Across) is a DEUS EX MACHINA (hand of God). Also: COLD CASE (“DNA testing might reopen one,” 1 Across), DRY ERASE (“Like some boards,” 123 Across), FATIGUES (“Battle wear,” 85 Down) and PHALANX (“Troop group,” 21 Across).

You Sweet Thing Dept.: “Dolls” are HONEYS (121 Across) and a “Doll” is a PET (103 Down).

Life In The Fast Lane Dept.: “Nascar Hall of Fame architect” is PEI (11 Down), the firm named for I.M. Pei, whose other structures include the glass pyramids at the Louvre.

In the News Dept.: Susan Orlean, author of fascinating book “The Orchid Thief” (which became the movie “Adaptation”), is out with a new biography about the dog RIN Tin Tin (“___ Tin Tin,” 113 Down). The Denver Broncos and their prayerful “QB Tebow” (TIM, 27 Across) are out of the Super Bowl hunt after a thrashing by the Patriots last night.

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