Hits And Ms.es

 New York Times crossword puzzle Nov. 24 / Constructed by Gary Cee

Brrrrrr! I am officially declaring that winter has arrived in Philadelphia, where it was a bone-chilling 25 degrees when I woke up this morning. It has since warmed up to a balmy 30 degrees – a perfect day to stay inside and solve today’s musical crossword.

This puzzle’s theme, hinted at by the clever title, consists of (once) popular tunes featuring women’s names. Constructor Gary Cee has phrased dialogue-based clues around famous females to generate song titles as answers: “Time to show your cards, Ms. Field!” is LAY DOWN SALLY (110 Across).

Others: “Greetings, Ms. Retton!” is HELLO MARY LOU (22 Across). “Hurry up, Ms. Brennan!” is COME ON EILEEN (37 Across). “Cheer up, Ms. Teasdale!” is SARA SMILE (55 Across). “Am I the one, Ms. Andrews?” is JULIE DO YA LOVE ME? (62 Across). “Leave it alone, Ms. Zellweger!” is WALK AWAY RENEE (94 Across). “You look hot in a thong, Ms. Hawkins!” is SEXY SADIE (74 Across). “I need a hand, Ms. Fleming!” is HELP ME RHONDA (86 Across). And “Very nice, Ms. Kennedy” is SWEET CAROLINE (31 Across).

Not bad a concept overall, although some of the references are pretty dated – Sara Teasdale is a long-dead poet, and the heyday of screen star Rhonda Fleming was way before my time. Even actress Eileen Brennan, who just died recently, is on the cusp of my frame of reference. And, apropos of nothing, was anyone else surprised to see the word “thong” in the Sadie Hawkins clue? How racy!

Dealey Plaza Dept.: The grid’s reference to Caroline Kennedy makes it hard not to mention the 50th anniversary of her father’s assassination, which was marked on Friday. One of the most fascinating things I learned throughout all of the memorial coverage was this historical footnote: Journalists served as pallbearers for Lee Harvey Oswald. The amazing story is summed up by this quote from one reporter to another: “Cochran, if we’re gonna write a story about the burial of Lee Harvey Oswald, we’re gonna have to bury the son of a bitch ourselves.”

I Don’t Want Nobody Baby Dept.: And speaking of female names in music, it was a toss-up between filling in ELLIMAN and ELLIMUN for “Yvonne with the 1978 #1 hit ‘If I Can’t Have You'” (105 Across). The crossing clue – “Broadcast as an encore” (87 Down) – could have been RERUN or RERAN. Turns out it’s RERAN and ELLIMAN. I certainly knew the song (ugh!), but had no idea who performed it.

Doubled Up Dept.: The twice-used clue “Aqua, e.g.” yields PASTEL at 60 Down and HUE and 86 Down.

Flying Circus Dept.: “Absolutely Fabulous” or “Father Ted” are each a BRITCOM, a questionable shortening of “British sitcom.” I’m also going to put WANDA (“Film fish,” 96 Down) in this category because it refers to the classic U.K.-based comedy “A Fish Called Wanda,” featuring members of Monty Python. Fans like me were thrilled to hear this week that the troupe is reuniting next summer in London.

Fun Phrases Dept.: “Cutthroat” is DOG-EAT-DOG (75 Down).  “Egg choice” is EXTRA LARGE (68 Down). “Remember” is CALL TO MIND (3 Down). “Bread flavorer” is DIPPING OIL (15 Down). “Botanists’ microscopic study” are PLANT CELLS (71 Down). “Main cause” is KEY FACTOR (12 Down). And “Always” is EVERY TIME (43 Down).

Happy Thanksgiving! Dept.: “Turkey isn’t one” is RED MEAT (26 Across). And a “Parade organizer” is MACY’S (1 Across). Have you been following all the float flaps?

Have a great holiday!

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. And here’s a little more about me.

Vowel Play

New York Times crossword puzzle Nov. 17 / Constructed by Julian Lim

I’m so glad to be posting this from the kitchen table while drinking coffee instead of from the sick bed while sipping soup, as I did last week.

In fact, today’s puzzle was a vowel soup of sorts. “Wheel of Fortune” contestants would spend a fortune solving this crossword, since each theme answer contains a string of all five vowels – though not necessarily in alphabetical order. So “Paintings of French estates?” are CHATEAU OILS (23 Across), while “All of the writings of a Persian faith?” is a BAHAI OEUVRE (36 Down).

Others: ROUE AIRLINES is a “Carrier for Casanovas?” (28 Across), UNDERSEA OUIJA is an “Aid for a submarine seance?” (52 Across), MAUI OENOPHILE is a “Hawaiian wine lover?” (82 Across), ADIEU OARSMAN! are “Last words from a coxswain?” (103 Across), PRAGUE AIOLI is a “Garlicky sauce in central Europe?” (112 Across), and LEIA OUTCOME is “‘Happily ever after’ with Han Solo?” (40 Down).

All in all, not a difficult puzzle. But I was impressed with the number and creativity of the theme answers.

Fairy Tales Dept.: Speaking of Princess Leia, I guess we’ll see if she and Han really do have a happy marriage now that they’ve given a date for the next “Star Wars” installment: Dec. 18, 2015.

Fun Phrases Dept.: There were quite a few entertaining, non-theme entries. “Hit show with many hits” is THE SOPRANOS (38 Down). “‘Stay cool!'” is DON’T PANIC (111 Across). “Achieve nirvana” is FIND PEACE (66 Across). “Spin, of a sort” is MEDIA BIAS (25 Across). “Gunfire, in slang” is HOT LEAD (4 Down). And “‘That’ll never happen!'” is GET REAL (96 Across).

Say What? Dept.: “Wee ones” are BAIRNS (14 Down), which I figured out from crossing words. Never heard the term.

Slumdog Millionaire Dept.: There were three references to India in the grid. “Indian state known for its tea” is ASSAM (42 Down). And the doubled clue “Indian tourist destination” yields both AGRA (22 Across), site of the Taj Mahal, and the coastal town of GOA (114 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. And here’s a little more about me.


New York Times crossword puzzle Nov. 10 / Constructed by Alan Olschwang

Apologies for this late and short post. I’m in the sick ward – better known as my couch – and am struggling to get over a nasty bug.

Today’s puzzle involves a subject near and dear to my journalistic heart – but only when it’s spelled bylines. As you might have guessed from the extra “E” in the title, this simple puzzle is all about famous sign-offs.

They begin at 23 Across with The Lone Ranger: HI-YO SILVER, AWAY! Next up is movie reviewer Roger Ebert – THE BALCONY IS CLOSED (47 Across) – followed by the stuttering Porky Pig: TH-TH-TH-TH-THAT’S ALL, FOLKS! (64 Across). The theme answers end with comedian Red Skelton’s AND MAY GOD BLESS (109 Across) and George Burns’ famous SAY GOODNIGHT, GRACIE (79 Across).

Masked Man Dept.: The Lone Ranger made another (half) appearance at 27 Across,  SABE (“Kemo ___.”) Here I will confess that I always thought his exit line was HI-HO SILVER, not HI-YO SILVER. That made for some initial problems at 3 Down – “Bears’ home in Texas.” I eventually figured out it’s BAYLOR University.

Aside from being easy, my other complaint is how old these “bye-lines” are. Red Skelton? George Burns? Those guys were old when I was a kid. If you want to attract a new generation to crossword puzzles, you need some modern exit lines.

Philly Shout-Out: “‘August: ___ County’ (2008 Pulitzer winner for Drama)” is OSAGE. Though the play has nothing to do with it, Osage Avenue in Philadelphia was the site of the 1985 MOVE bombing. City police dropped explosives on a fortified rowhouse belonging to the militant back-to-nature group known as MOVE, killing 11 people and leading to a fire that consumed an entire block of homes. A movie about the event, “Let the Fire Burn,” was recently released.

Now I’m going to apologize for my own abrupt sign-off. I think I should go back to bed.

And, as Walter Cronkite says, that’s the way it is.


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.

Stolen Produce

New York Times crossword puzzle Nov. 3 / Constructed by Andy Kravis and Victor Barocas

The front page of today’s NYT Magazine is kind of cute: It shows a broccoli floret getting a “haircut” to illustrate a story about the vegetable’s image makeover.

How ironic that the puzzle at the back of the magazine is all about fruit. The inventive grid involves removing – or stealing, in the title’s parlance – the letters that spell out various pieces of produce.

The constructors start with the punny GRAPE LEAVES at 29 Across (“They get stuffed at Greek restaurants.”) That answer becomes key to solving 23 Across, “Many service dogs, after 29-Across?” So … bear with me: GERMAN SHEPHERDS are service dogs, right? But when G-R-A-P-E “leaves,” you’re left with the entry EMN SHEHRDS. The same goes for BANANA SPLITS at 89 Across (“Ice cream treats”). To get the answer to 81 Across (“Circus founders, after 89-Across?”), you “split” off B-A-N-A-N-A from BARNUM AND BAILEY, leaving the answer RUM D BILEY.

The front page is about a vegetable, but the next-to-last page is all about fruit.
The front page is about a vegetable, but the next-to-last page is all about fruit.

Others: After DATE BOOKS (“Schedule planners,” 48 Across), a “Serious break” is a COMPOUN FRCUR, instead of COMPOUND FRACTURE (40 Across). After LEMON DROPS (“Tart treats,” 66 Across), a “Legendary Scottish swimmer” is the OCH NSS STER, not LOCH NESS MONSTER (60 Across). And when the FRUIT FLIES (“Short-lived pests … or an alternative title for this puzzle,” 108 Across), “Where Margaret Thatcher studied chemistry” becomes OXOD NVERSIY (99 Across), instead of OXFORD UNIVERSITY.

It’s a clever idea, though I’m a little ambivalent about having nonsense words for half the theme entries. What did you think of this fruit salad?

Philly Shout-Out Dept: A “Hockey fake” is a DEKE (48 Down), and I’m beginning to think the entire Flyers team is fake. What’s up with this 4-9 record? Maybe they need to try a few more dekes. Also in this category is NAVY YARD (“Cruiser repair site,” 74 Across), a huge facility undergoing a rebirth along the Delaware River.

Zing! Dept.: “Company whose logo was, appropriately, crooked” is ENRON (21 Across).

Bon Voyage Dept.: “Psychedelic experiences” are TRIPS (12 Down), which are usually the result of a “Psychedelic drug” – LSD (55 Down).

Foreign Waterways Dept.: I knew that the “River of Pisa” is the ARNO (3 Down), but I had never heard of the DNIEPER, the “Fourth-longest river of Europe” (67 Down). And I’m still not sure how to pronounce it.

Pop Culture Dept.: It’s always mildly embarrassing when the grid includes the name of a modern celebrity I’ve never heard of. Today, it was J. COLE (“Rapper with the 2013 No. 1 album ‘Born Sinner’,” 31 Across).

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.