It’s Only ‘A’ Game

New York Times crossword puzzle Jan. 12 / Constructed by Andrew Chaikin

Warm(ish) greetings! I hope everyone has been able to put away their BALACLAVAS (“Warm mask/cap amalgams,” 108 Across) now that we’ve thawed out from the polar vortex.

Today’s straightforward puzzle is a break from the specialized designs of the past couple weeks. The title basically gives away the concept: The only vowel in the theme answers is “A.” Not terribly exciting, but as an added hint – or for some extra pizzazz – the theme’s italicized clues use only “A” for a vowel as well.

I figured it out right off the bat when I saw “M*A*S*H’ star” as the clue for 3 Down. Eight letters? Has to be the A-centric ALAN ALDA. From there, the answers flowed like magic: ABRACADABRA (“‘Shazam!’” 39 Down)!

Others: CASABLANCA (“Grand-slam drama that stars Bacall’s man,” 22 Across), FA-LA-LA-LA-LA (“Half an Xmas ‘Halls’ chant,” 24 Across), STAR WARS (“Astral saga that has a Darth part,” 38 Across) RASTAMAN (“Black cat that packs grass and chants ‘Jah’,” 87 Across) and MAGNA CARTA (“Landmark vassal law act,” 106 Across).

More: BAFTA AWARDS (“Gala that saw ‘Black Swan,’ ‘Avatar’ and ‘Ab Fab’ attract claps,” 36 Down), CATCH AS CATCH CAN (“Haphazard,” 28 Down), ANAGRAMS (“Flashback and halfbacks,” 81 Down), BLACK AND TAN (“Bar glass thas half Bass, half dark malt,” 37 Down) and SAND MANDALA (“Lama’s art that can’t last,” 38 Down).

And the main answer is the famous palindrome A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL: PANAMA (“Fab ‘backward-gram’ a la ‘Sam, aha! Bahamas!’” 63 Across).

Overall, an impressive number of theme answers and creative clue-writing, though not difficult to solve. If I was grading this puzzle, I’d give it an easy A.

Tripped Up Dept.: I have a very messy entry at 89 Down, where I stumbled twice trying to answer the related clue “TV/movie group associated with this puzzle’s theme?” First I entered ASCAP , an all-A answer that stands for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Then I realized that union is for music, not TV and movies, so I entered AFTRA, for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Then I realized that doesn’t include movies (though I guess it could, since it merged with the Screen Actors Guild to form SAG-AFTRA). Maybe the answer was  AMPAS, for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? As in, “I’d like to thank the Academy”? That includes movies on TV channels like HBO, right?

I finally realized the answer they’re looking for is the A-TEAM, which of course has an E in it. Arggghhh! Speaking of the Oscars, its cousin the Golden Globes are on tonight. They’re given out by the HFPA, an A-only abbreviation that stands for Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Only One Goes With Coffee Dept.: “Apple product” is both an IMAC (93 Down) and an IPAD (69 Across); the latter is a TABLET (“69-Across, e.g.,” 34 Across). But an “Apple product, perhaps” is a STRUDEL (33 Down).

Famous Offspring Dept.: “Picasso’s designer daughter” is PALOMA (13 Down), while “Designer McCartney” is STELLA (41 Down), daughter of Beatle Paul.

Before My Time Dept.: Through crossing answers, I got EST for “’70s self-help course” at 72 Down. What does that mean?

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.

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Comments

2 thoughts on “It’s Only ‘A’ Game”

  1. Thanks for illuminating the EST reference! Too obscure, though. What’s wrong with Eastern Standard Time?

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