Puzzle Envy

New York Times crossword Jan. 6 / Constructed by Dan Feyer and Andrea Carla Michaels

Greetings from Las Vegas! After I finish this post, I’m going to steal Mike Tyson’s tiger. Just kidding. That’s a reference to “The Hangover,” the Vegas-based film that coincidentally is featured in 101 Down: “Like ‘Knocked Up’ and ‘The Hangover'” — R-RATED.

We usually spend this week of the year in more tropical climes, as an anniversary present to ourselves. The past two years we’ve gone to Aruba, an island with many an IGUANA (“Greenish creature,” 54 Down). But this year we’re in Vegas — not far from UTAH (“Land of Zion?” 71 Across) — at a conference where people are trying to learn how to TURN PRO (“Start to make a living from something,” 20 Across) at blogging and other new media ventures. Somehow, I’m skeptical. And yet I keep posting, because it’s so much fun.

Today’s puzzle was pretty simple once you realized the title was an aural clue. Each theme answer is a two-word entry starting with the letters N and V (“en-vy” — get it?). I solved the first one easily at 23 Across — NIGHT VISION (“What some goggles provide”) — after getting the crossing V with SUVS (“Yukon and Tahoe, for short,” 5 Down). Then it was off to the races with NIA VARDALOS (“‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ writer and star,” 118 Across), who usually only gets her first name in the grid, and NORFOLK, VIRGINIA (“Home of the world’s largest naval base,” 99 Across), which I knew as a military outpost but had no idea it was the biggest.

Others: NUMERICAL VALUE (“3.14159…, for pi,” 16 Down), NOW, VOYAGER (“1942 Bette Davis film,” 74 Across), NATIONAL VELVET (“Hit 1944 film starring a 12-year-old actress,” 47 Down), NORTH VIETNAMESE (“Onetime enemy,” 36 Across), NAPA VALLEY (“Wine taster’s destination,” 65 Across) and NO VACANCY (“Bad sign for a traveler?” 70 Across).

Rosebud Dept.: Did this puzzle just ruin the new 007 movie for me? I had no idea that SKYFALL referred to “James Bond’s childhood home” (95 Down).

So That’s What It’s Called Dept.: The “Paragraph symbol” (53 Down), which I can’t replicate here but is printed in the clue, is apparently called a PILCROW (53 Down).

You’ve Got Mail Dept.: “NetZero competitor” is AOL (111 Across). Some of you may have seen this interesting post about how NYT crossword clues for the news portal/e-mail site have changed over the years.

Cheap Shots Dept.: The three-letter answer to “’60s prez” (45 Down) refers not to JFK, or LBJ, but to 1860s president ABE Lincoln. Ugh. And I hate the word KALE (“Moolah,” 14 Down) as a synonym for money. Seriously, have you ever heard someone use it that way? What’s wrong with calling it a leafy green?

Athletics Dept.: Today’s grid features a couple of common puzzle names — ODOM (“Kardashian spouse Lamar ___,” 87 Down) and SNEAD (“Slammin’ Sammy,” 125 Across) — and a couple not-so-common ones: PLAXICO (“The N.F.L.’s ___ Burress,” 94 Down) and KINER (“Ralph in the Baseball Hall of Fame,” 32 Down.

Best Wishes Dept.: It was announced this week that “Star Wars” filmmaker George Lucas got engaged. So perhaps it’s appropriate that this puzzle features A NEW HOPE (“Subtitle of ‘Star Wars Episode IV’,” 43 Down). That’s the original movie, by the way, even though it’s Episode IV.

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