Overheard In New England

New York Times crossword puzzle Sept. 29 / Constructed by Norm Guggenbiller

Who’s up for some some chowdah? Or lobstah, anyone? There’s not much to say about today’s puzzle, except that whatever you do say should be uttered with a Boston accent. “Overheard In New England” takes common phrases and replaces the “R” sounds with “AH” sounds.

So, if “A ‘Star Trek’ officer and a physician are going to board a plane?”, SPOCKS WILL FLY (24 Across). “Work agreeably in a greenhouse?” is POT ON GOOD TERMS (59 Across). “‘Happy Birthday’ on a cake, e.g.?” is GOBBLED MESSAGE (76 Across). And “Sexy operators?” are HOT SURGEONS (95 Across).

But the problem with some of the theme answers is that while the first word follows the accent, the second word doesn’t. COD COUNTERS (“Atlantic fishery officers?” 36 Across), for example, would actually be pronounced closer to “cod countahs.” Same with HOPPERS’ BAZAAR (“Where frogs shop?” 112 Across), which would be more like “hoppahs’ bazaah.”

Anyway, meh. I guess I should expect a bit of a letdown after last week’s blockbuster contest. And the theme would have been easy even if I hadn’t lived in Boston for eight years – and even if I hadn’t married a Beantown native. Though my husband doesn’t have much of an accent, he has a couple of relatives that pahk their cahs in Hahvahd Yahd, if you know what I mean.

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “Comcast media holding” is NBC (41 Across). The hometown cable giant has the tallest building in the city.

Old School Dept.: I didn’t mind seeing quirky, cult TV character Les NESSMAN (“‘WKRP in Cincinnati’ news director Les ___,” 92 Down) in the grid. But who on earth is “1960s-’70s pitcher Blue Moon” ODOM (61 Down)? NBA player Lamar Odom, who doubles as a reality star in the Kardashian empire, is better reference. And who are the “1960s duo” OTIS & Carla (110 Down)?

Pole Position Dept.: Today’s post is short because I am fulfilling item #346 on my bucket list today: Attending a NASCAR race. I finished solving the puzzle in the parking lot, where there are plenty of tailgaters firing up their grills. But I have not yet seen a BUG ZAPPER (“Sight at many a barbecue,” 78 Down).

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.

Letterboxes (Part 2)

New York Times crossword puzzle Sept. 22 / Constructed by Mike Selinker

Belated greetings. I’m posting late this week in deference to last Sunday’s crossword contest, which gave solvers until today at 6 p.m. to submit their entries. The mind-bending grid was a puzzle-within-a-puzzle – a cryptogram, essentially – that came with a crucial editor’s note:

In this special prize crossword, the completed solution conceals a familiar three-word phrase related to the puzzle’s theme. 70-Across provides a hint on how to find it.

Really, the key to this touchy-feely puzzle was using crossing words to solve 70-Across (“How to get a message out of the boxes”). The surprising and cryptic answer: READ THIS GRID IN BRAILLE.

Well, yikes.


So the search was on for a Braille alphabet. Yet when I found one, I wasn’t sure if it was going to work: The boxes were 2×3, whereas the ones in the puzzle were 3×5. But I gave it a go, guessing that every letter O in those “letterboxes” should be treated as a “dot.” Thus, in a way, I had to CONNECT THE DOTS (“With 97-Down, classic puzzle type,” 1 Down) to get the final answer. Lo and behold, it worked. The dot patterns translated into the apt three-word phrase FEEL THE LOVE.

This was a truly touchy-feely puzzle. Did you feel the love?
This was a truly touchy-feely puzzle. Did you feel the love?

I admit feeling a little trepidation going into this puzzle because last year’s crossword contest partially stumped me. It was my first encounter with the use of black squares as part of a theme, knowledge that later came in handy with the “Black Cats” puzzle from way back in January. But I solved the contest fairly quickly this time – the hardest part was finding the Braille alphabet. I kept finding Braille translators, which were interesting but didn’t really give me what I needed.

Twenty-five winners will be selected at random to win a crossword calendar; they’ll be announced on Friday, Sept. 27 on The New York Times crossword blog. For those of you solving the puzzle a week late – sorry that you missed the contest.

Here’s what constructor Mike Selinker had to say about the grid. I have to say I totally missed the “theme” answers in the puzzle – they all have something to do with the sense of touch. I listed them below simply as “Fun Phrases.” (UPDATE: The crossword contest is over – and, alas, I did not win. But neither did about 5,000 solvers, so I don’t feel so bad.)

Fun Factoids Dept.: “What lobsters and crabs have” is TEN LEGS (7 Down).

Fun Phrases Dept.: “Words on a fragile package” are HANDLE WITH CARE (23 Across). “Mouthpiece for the head?” is a PRESS SECRETARY (31 Across). “Rotary alternative” is a TOUCH-TONE PHONE (107 Across). And “DDT and others” are CONTACT POISONS (118 Across).

Obscure References Dept.: “Electromagnetic device” is a MASER (106 Down). “Roman magistrates” are EDILES (53 Down).

Where In The World? Dept.: “Country that has two oryxes on its coat of arms” is NAMIBIA (50 Down). “African capital” is HARARE (14 Down). “Iberian wine city” is OPORTO (16 Across). Speaking of vino, “Some West Coast wines” are NAPAS (109 Down).

Odd Couples Dept.: There were some interesting pairs in the grid. “Like hit shows, often” is SOLD OUT (63 Across), while “Sign of a successful show” is SRO (68 Down). Then there was THEO (“‘Vincent & ___’ [film about the van Gogh brothers],” 18 Across) and THEOS (“Baltimore club, for short,” 9 Down), although the latter should be read as THE O’S, an abbreviation for Orioles.

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.

Letterboxes (Part 1)

New York Times crossword puzzle Sept. 22 / Constructed by Mike Selinker

UPDATE: The crossword contest is over (and, alas, I did not win). Here are my thoughts on the solution to Letterboxes.


EARLIER: Today’s crossword is a puzzle-within-a-puzzle, and it’s also a contest. As such, I’m going to hold off on posting so as not to spoil the fun. You can read a little more about the grid here.

I’ll blog on Tuesday after 6 p.m., which is the deadline for contest entries.

If you’d like some hints, feel free to e-mail me at katmath (at) gmail (dot) com.

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.

That Girl

New York Times crossword puzzle Sept. 15 / Constructed by Joe DiPietro

Greetings! Sorry for the late post. I had to work my day job today.

I’m a bit too young to have watched the TV program “That Girl.” Luckily, today’s crossword of the same name has nothing to do with the show or its star, Marlo Thomas.

But the grid *is* all about HER. Constructor Joe DiPietro has aurally tweaked common phrases to include those three letters. So to “Confiscate a chef’s appetizer?” (23 Across) is to SEIZE HER SALAD (Caesar salad? Seize-her? Get it?) while to “Conk a coach’s team member?” (37 Across) is to SOCK HER PLAYER (soccer player). Cute, but not terribly challenging.

Others: SHUT HER BUG (“Close a VW Beetle owner’s car door?” 55 Across), RUB HER CHICKEN (“Put a spice mix on a cook’s piece of poultry?” 66 Across), LET HER BOMB (“Keep a bad comedian onstage?” 77 Across), LICK HER BOTTLE (“Find out what a baby’s milk tastes like?” 98 Across), JUMP HER CABLES (“Hop over an electrician’s wires?” 114 Across), CHECK HER BOARD (“Ensure a surfer’s safety?” 15 Down), and COUNT HER PARTS (“Take a mechanic’s inventory?” 52 Down).

Say What? Dept.: There’s lots of dialogue in the puzzle. “‘Just arrived!'” is IT’S HERE (92 Down). “‘C’mon, help me out'” is BE A PAL (99 Down). “‘Count me in!'” is I’M THERE (25 Across). And “‘See?!”” is TOLD YOU (30 Down).

Hmmmm Dept.: Not sure how I feel about the dropped “and” in the phrase STOP GO at 60 Across (“Like much rush-hour traffic”). And since when is EATABLE (“Fit to be consumed,” 69 Down) a synonym for “edible”?

Much Music Dept.: As a member of Generation X, I was thrilled to see THE SMITHS (“Band with a 1985 U.K. No. 1 album titled ‘Meat Is Murder’,” 54 Down) in the grid. And I’m guessing the ’90s band Foo Fighters – formed by a member of Nirvana after Kurt Cobain died – was the inspiration for the clue “Feu fighter?” (65 Across). The French answer? EAU. (Those two references almost make up for the inclusion of the lesser bands Haircut 100 and Matchbox 20 in the puzzle two weeks ago.) Also in this category: AL GREEN (“‘Love and Happiness’ singer, 1972,” 47 Down), Frank LOESSER (“‘Luck Be a Lady’ composer/lyricist,” 96 Down) and the BIEB (“‘Baby’ singer’s nickname, with ‘the’,” 91 Across).

Ouch! Dept.: “Like Julius Caesar” is STABBED (86 Down).

What did you think of the puzzle?

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.

Bumper Cars

New York Times crossword puzzle Sept. 8 / Constructed by Pete Muller and Sue Keefer

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! Today’s puzzle is for the car lovers among us: Each theme answer is a clever phrase composed solely of the names of vehicle models. Strung together as such, they “bump” each other – but don’t worry, nobody’s fender gets dented. And you won’t get whiplash.

The “Search for a cradle-robbing woman in New York City?” is a PARK AVENUE COUGAR QUEST (23 Across). A “High-handed ambassador stationed off the Italian coast?” is a CAVALIER CAPRI DIPLOMAT (37 Across). And a “Peace treaty between a predator and its prey?” is a BOBCAT-RABBIT ACCORD (55 Across).

More: “Tom Brady, in the 2002 Super Bowl?” was an INTREPID RAM CHALLENGER (67 Across). A “Musical piece for a ‘Star Wars’ battle scene?” is a STORM TROOPER SONATA (78 Across). An “Advocate for pro-am tournaments” is a CELEBRITY GOLF DEFENDER (98 Across). And a “Diminuitive Aborigine?” is a MIDGET OUTBACK EXPLORER (116 Across).

Overall, it was a pretty straightforward crossword after a couple of weeks of tricky grids. I have to say, though, as an urban dweller who uses her 9-year-old car about once a week (if that), some of these model names were unfamiliar to me. STORM? DIPLOMAT? DEFENDER? And I’ve only ever owned one of these cars – a beloved VW Golf for eight years.

Pushing It Dept.: No one in California uses the phrase UCAL to describe the state’s flagship university (“Berkeley campus, for short,” 52 Down). It’s just “Cal.” Also, since when is “toga” a verb? The answer to “Ready for a frat party, say” is TOGAED (12 Down), apparently as in all togaed up and nowhere to go. Hmmmm.

Retro Gamers Dept.: I didn’t think I knew about SOMA cubes, a “popular 1960s puzzle,” per 75 Across. But I recognized it once I saw the picture.

Sweet Snacks Dept.: “Candy bar featured in a ‘Seinfeld’ episode” is TWIX (27 Across). And I wasn’t even sure they still made BIT O’ Honey (91 Across), but apparently they do. Anyone ever tried it?

Wedding Bells Dept.: The “‘CBS Evening News’ anchor before Pelley” was Katie COURIC (8 Down), who just got engaged to her banker beau.

How Did I Not Know This? Dept.: REEBOK is a “Shoe brand named after an animal,” according to 60 Down. I’ve worn Reeboks without realizing that it’s a variant spelling of “rhebok,” the Afrikaans/Dutch word for a type of antelope or gazelle.

What did you think of the puzzle?

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.

Persons Of Note

New York Times crossword puzzle Sept. 1 / Constructed by John Farmer

Is Will Shortz hinting that he needs a raise? This is the second crossword in as many months based around the almighty dollar. And the greed is hidden in plain sight: constructor John Farmer has cleverly used the black squares to create a huge $ in the middle of the grid. (Which I have to admit I didn’t see until I took a picture of the finished puzzle for this blog!)

This puzzle shows you the money. Literally.
This puzzle shows you the money. Literally.

Like its predecessor in July, this crossword literally shows you the money in seven special squares. The main clue to this theme – DON’T TAKE ANY OF / IT AT FACE VALUE – is found at 31- and 33 Down (“Skeptic’s advice … or a ‘noteworthy’ hint to seven Across answers in this puzzle.”)

But solving those long entries came much later. I realized something tricky was up when I started solving in the lower right corner. “‘Terrible’ toddler time” (113 Down) would usually be TWOS, but crossing words like ARGONNE (“1918’s Battle of the ___ Forest,” 121 Across) and MOANING (“Ghostly sound,” 117 Across) meant that the toddler answer was _ GE _. That made me think the answer was AGE 2, with the actual number placed in the square. But that would mean that the “Neighbor of Archie Bunker” at 124 Across would be GEORGE 2 – which didn’t make sense. (I know, how could I forget his neighbor was George Jefferson? We’ll get back to that.)

So I skipped up to the top right, where the “Longtime Ed Asner role” (14 Across) surely had to be some form of “Lou Grant.” But at four letters, neither of those words fit. Then I tried some crossing words and realized that the “Rapper who feuded with Ja Rule and Nas” (17 Down) had to be 50 CENT. Bingo! GRANT and 50 could share the same square, because the onetime president is on the $50 bill. (Not that I carry many of those around.)

From there, it was easy to go back and figure out that Archie’s neighbor was GEORGE JEFFERSON, because Thomas JEFFERSON is on the $2 – making the “‘Terrible’ toddler time” AGE 2, just as I suspected earlier. Pretty awesome puzzle.

Other denominations: At 1 Across, the “Star of four Spike Lee films” is DENZEL (WASHINGTON), who shares space with (1) SEC (“‘Be right there!’,” 7 Down). At 88 Across, a “Singer at Obama’s 2009 inauguration” was ARETHA (FRANKLIN), who shares a square with 43 Down’s “1980s British band” HAIRCUT (100). At 123 Across, “‘The Terminator’ co-star” LINDA (HAMILTON) pairs with HANGS (10) at 97 Down (“Does a surfboard stunt”). At 89 Across, the “Baseball All-Star who was also a football Pro Bowler” is BO (JACKSON), which goes with MATCHBOX (20), the “Pop/rock group with a 2002 hit co-written with Mick Jagger” (39 Across). And the final fiscal reference comes at 119 Across: The “First film Tarzan” – who I’d never heard of – was ELMO (LINCOLN), who shares space with 95 Down’s “Celebratory gesture,” which you should give someone after solving this crossword: HIGH (5).

Doubled Up Dept.: A “1954 film septet” are the seven SAMURAI (19 Across), while the “Gustav Holst septet” are PLANETS (22 Across). I almost wrote in DWARVES for the former, and it never occurred to me that the latter was composed when there were only seven known planets. Also, a “Bud” is a MAC (39 Across), while a “Bud’s place” is an EAR (52 Across).

Sorry for the short and late post (I’m still on PDT!), but I am off to catch a plane back to Philly. What did you think of the puzzle?

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.