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.