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.