New York Times crossword puzzle June 23 / By Patrick Berry

This first weekend of summer found me solving today’s clever puzzle on my stoop while sipping iced coffee. Sundays don’t get much better than that in my book. The morning improved even more after I got the first theme answer in this challenging grid – but I actually hadn’t figured out the theme exactly.

My epiphany came after crossing answers gave me _ H _ UP for “Put in an appearance” at 21 Across. By squeezing OW into one box, I could make it SH(OW) UP; that would make H(OW) the first word of the “Elocution phrase” (15 Down). Some quick calculations, plus a glance at the puzzle’s title, made me realize there had to be four (OW)s in that answer. There were: H(OW) N(OW) BR(OW)N C(OW) .

So get ready to laugh: At this point, I thought all the theme answers would contain four sets of OW – which is what you would say after getting hit by a 2-by-4, right? Alas, I was thinking too hard. The rest of the fun theme answers contained a variety of two-letter combinations that appeared four times in each. Others:

_ F(OR) BETTER (OR) F(OR) W(OR)SE (“Comic strip about the Patterson family,” 22 Across). This was one of the last ones I figured out, since I don’t read the funny pages. It crosses with IV(OR) (“English war poet Gurney,” 2 Down); ST(OR)M DRA(IN) (“What a gutter may lead to,” 8 Down); ST(OR)IES (“Made-up alibis,” 9 Down); and AD(OR)E (“Love,” 11 down).

_ S(IN)G(IN)’ (IN) THE RA(IN) (“#1 on the American Film Institute’s ‘Greatest Movie Musicals’ list,” 45 Across). It crosses with G(IN)GER (“Zesty staple of Asian cuisine,” 41 Down), the aforementioned ST(OR)M DRA(IN); FOUND(IN)G (“Setting up,” 24 Down); and DETA(IN) (“Hold for questioning,” 28 Down).

_ The entirely appropriate M(AR)G(AR)ET F(AR)R(AR) (“Classic name in crossword puzzles,” 61 Down), the first crossword puzzle editor of The New York Times. It crosses with BE(AR) ON (“Be relevant to,” 67 Across); LI(AR) (“Untrustworthy sort,” 76 Across); AR(AR)AT (“Welcome sight after a flood,” 93 Across); and SC(AR)Y (“Horrorful,” 103 Across).

_ W(ER)N(ER) KLEMP(ER)(ER), (“German-born Emmy winner of 1960s TV,” 73 Across), who starred as Col. Klink in “Hogan’s Heroes.” It crosses with B(ER)ETS (“Green ___,” 68 Across); COW(ER)ED (“Recoiled fearfully,” 57 Down); BAL(ER)S (“Farm machines,” 59 Down) and BORD(ER) (“Line on a map,” 55 Down).

_ (TH)IS, (TH)AT AND (TH)E O(TH)ER (“Various things,” 94 Across). It crosses with (TH)AW (“Detente,” 94 Down); AR(TH)UR (“1981 comedy or its 2011 remake,” 86 Down); MON(TH)LY (“How utility bills are usually paid,” 83 Down); and (TH)OU (“Biblical pronoun,” 96 Down).

_ CA(ST)(S T)HE FIR(ST) (ST)ONE (“Initiates a conflict,” 47 Down). It crosses with BE(ST)(OW)S (“Confers,” 55 Across); BOA(ST) (“Toot one’s own horn,” 59 Across); FOI(ST)ED (“Palmed off,” 87 Across); and ANG(ST) (“Existential anxiety,” 92 Across).

_ And a movie that I have to confess I’ve never heard of, (ON)CE UP(ON) A H(ON)EYMO(ON) (“1942 Cary Grant comedy,” 4 Down). It crosses with DIJ(ON) (“Mustard variety,” 1 Across); TAL(ON)ED (“Like birds of prey,” 33 Across); ELT(ON) (“John at a piano,” 48 Across); and ARG(ON) (“Gas in a vacuum tube,” 72 Across).

Celestial Bodies Dept.: Way back in the recesses of my mind – and perhaps because one of my best friends is a “Star Wars” fanatic – I remembered that ENDOR is the “Ewoks’ home in ‘Star Wars'” (66 Down). Turns out Endor is a “forest moon,” which gives me a good excuse to link to some cool supermoon photos from last night.

Doubled-Up Dept.: The twice-used clue “Tired” yields both STALE (9 Across) and WEARY (104 Across).

Writer’s Block Dept.: Although it has supposedly been around since 1861, I have never heard of the game “Authors.” Still, it was pretty easy to figure out that “One of the authors in the game Authors” is Louisa May ALCOTT (30 Down). Speaking of writers, the “Award won by Alice Munro and Stephen King” is named for O. HENRY (35 Down).

Rising Waters Dept.: The “Patriarch who lived 950 years” is NOAH (102 Across), whose biblical ark landed at the aforementioned Mount AR(AR)AT. Speaking of floods, I was stunned to read about the floods in Calgary over the weekend. Three people died and the Saddledome – the city’s iconic hockey arena – was submerged up to the 8th row of seats.

Need some solving tips and tricks? I’ve posted some here. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below. You can also visit my Facebook page, or tweet me @crosswordkathy.

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