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!

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