Passing Grades

New York Times crossword puzzle Feb. 16 / Constructed by Yaakov Bendavid

How ironic that I rushed through this morning’s puzzle to make sure I have enough time for grading. I’m co-teaching a college journalism class for the first time this semester, and the weekends are no longer my own. (At least until May.)

Today’s crossword – “Passing Grades” – is about squeaking by: The theme answers tweak common phrases by changing Fs to Ds. So “One who turned Cinderella’s pumpkin into pumpkin cheesecake?” is the DAIRY GODMOTHER (23 Across), and a “Snorkeling bargain?” is TWO DIVES FOR A TEN (49 Across).

Others: “Stephen Hawking’s computer-generated voice?” is SCIENCE DICTION (105 Across), while a “Transportation company that skimps on safety?” is a NO-DRILLS AIRLINE (77 Across). And “Two things seen beside James Bond at a casino?” are DISH AND CHIPS (15 Down), while “‘Oh yeah? Let’s see you hold your breath for two minutes!’ e.g.?” is a DARE INCREASE (58 Down).

Cute, but meh. It never got any better than DAIRY GODMOTHER, which was one of the first theme answers I solved. What did you think?

Be Mine Dept.: There was a pair of references to flowers and amour on this Valentine weekend: BED OF ROSES (“Comfortable state,” 7 Down) and LOVE NEST (“Tryst site,” 35 Down). As you may have heard, bad weather on the East Coast  foiled thousands of floral deliveries on Feb. 14. Hopefully, would-be recipients were compensated with sufficient chocolate and champagne, or at least a six-pack of BLONDE ALE (“Duvel pub offering,” 109 Across).

Wardrobe Malfunction Dept.: In light of the just-ended Fashion Week in New York, I have to single out this awesome Elton John-related clue. I never fully understood what style he was singing about in “Benny and the Jets” until I got 56 Across: MOHAIR. (“She’s got electric boots, a ___ suit …”)

For Fun Dept.: Some unusual entries in the grid included JOB SEARCH (“Use for a resume,” 52 Down), MAIL LIST (“Spammer enabler,” 56 Down), LOOSE TEA (“Infuser contents,” 79 Down), RED ARMY (“Force under Stalin,” 13 Down) and COMO ESTA (“It might be answered, ‘Muy bien, gracias’,” 101 Across).

New To Me Dept.: I learned through crossing words that a LATEEN is a “Triangular sail” (78 Down), and that a “Myocyte” is a MUSCLE CELL (68 Down).

Walk Of Fame Dept.: Lots of actors and actresses appear in this puzzle, such as CLORIS (“Oscar winner Leachman,” 64 Across), ILENE (“TV actress Graff,” 91 Down) and ELISHA (“Actress Cuthbert of ’24’,” 22 Across). And I didn’t realize that M*A*S*H star Alan Alda had relatives in the business, but apparently he does: “Acting family” is ALDAS (1 Down). There were also a couple of movie characters: CLEO (“Elizabeth Taylor role of ’63,” 73 Across) and RAIN MAN (“Dustin Hoffman title role,” 37 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. And here’s a little more about me.