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.