A Whiff Of Cologne

New York Times crossword Feb. 3 / Constructed by Dan Schoenholz

Achtung! Today’s puzzle requires some dabbling in Deutsch, which is kind of funny considering I first thought the title hinted at a French phrase. “A Whiff Of Cologne” made me think of “eau de cologne,” which led me to wonder if the theme answers would contain an extra “O.”

I realized that theory was wrong after solving PUMPERNICKEL (“Alternative to white,” 21 Across) and KAFFEE KLATSCH (“Informal social gathering, 50 Down). But I still didn’t put it all together until I got the sneezy GESUNDHEIT (“It’s a blessing,” 30 Down). The title refers to Cologne, Germany — not perfume — and all the theme entries are German words that have made their way into English. (“Gesundheit,” by the way, actually means “health.”)

Others: BLITZKRIEG (“Forceful advance,” 46 Down), REALPOLITIK (“Practical approach to diplomacy,” 26 Down), POLTERGEIST (“Rapper?” 44 Down), KINDERGARTEN (“Low grade?” 102 Across) and BILDUNGSROMAN (“Novel that focuses on character growth,” 15 Down).

This might be where I mention that my mother speaks fluent German. Legend has it that she tried to teach it to me as a child, but I apparently rebuffed her when I realized none of my friends spoke it. Wonder if constructor Dan Schoenholz is of German heritage?

Speaking In Tongues Dept.: If German’s not your thing, the puzzle included a few other languages. “Sun, in Verdun” is SOLEIL (17 Across). “Division of a house” (though I can’t reproduce the accent over the “o” in “Division”) is SALA (6 Across). “Los ___ mosqueteros” is TRES (37 Down). And “Language related to Tahitian” is MAORI (98 Across). The word GREEK also appears, but only in reference to a “Fraternity member” (75 Across).

Wow, Really? Dept.: “Time’s second African-American Person of the Year” is OBAMA (85 Down). That made me curious about the first African-American to be given the title, so I looked it up: It was Martin Luther King Jr., who made the cover in 1964. (Obama has actually been named Person of the Year twice, in 2008 and last year.)

Doubled-Up Dept.: “Roosevelt’s successor” was used two times in succession, yielding TRUMAN (62 Across) and TAFT (64 Across). “Inexperienced” led to GREEN (30 Across) and NAIVE (51 Down).

Who Needs Football? Dept.: It’s Super Bowl Sunday, the last day of the NFL season. But since the Eagles were 4-12 this year, our season actually ended several weeks ago; Philadelphians have been focused more on Feb. 11, when pitchers and catchers begin reporting to spring training. Along those lines, “Diamond stat” is RBI (54 Across), while “Baseball commissioner Bud” is SELIG (92 Across).

Quick Wit Dept.: TWAIN said “Familiarity breeds contempt — and children” (36 Across).

Journalism Dept.: I only knew the name of this Alaska newspaper because one of my college roommates worked there for a while: “Fairbanks Daily News-___” MINER (70 Across).

For Fun Dept.: There were a lot of interesting, unusual entries in this puzzle. Among them: ARCHDUKE (“Noble rank,” 104 Across), RED DOT (“Mark of a rifle’s laser sight,” 88 Down), ACED IT (“Confident test-taker’s cry,” 39 Down), LOW RENT (“Cheap, as housing,” 83 Down), SPIRACLE (“Insect’s opening for air,” 80 Across) and BAR TABS (“They may be running in a saloon,” 10 Across).

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: It’s not Philly exactly, but it’s close enough. “‘Christina’s World’ painter Andrew” WYETH (20 Down) lived and worked in nearby Chadds Ford, where you can tour his studio and see much of his art at the Brandywine River Museum.

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