Musical Interpretation

New York Times crossword puzzle March 30 / Constructed by Peter A. Collins

You don’t need to know much about music to interpret today’s puzzle. But it does help to be familiar with classic rock and have a creative sense of wordplay: The theme answers consist of literally rendered song titles.

The trickery became clear early on after crossing words left me with  _MOK_  at 37 Across. I knew from the clue (“With 43-Across, 1973 Deep Purple hit?”) that the song was “Smoke on the Water,” but there weren’t enough spaces. That meant the “on” had to be implied: SMOKE literally sits “on” THE WATER, which is entered directly below at 43 Across.

Song titles get literal interpretations in this grid. (Click to enlarge.)
Song titles get literal interpretations in this grid. (Click to enlarge.)

Others: STAND / YOUR MAN, for “Stand by Your Man” (With 89-Down, 1968 Tammy Wynette hit?”, 95 Down); TIME TIME, for “Time After Time” (“1984 Cyndi Lauper hit?” 78 Across); and R-O-C-K / THE CLOCK, for “Rock Around the Clock,” where ROCK are the circled letters surrounding THE CLOCK (“With the circled letters, 1955 Bill Haley and His Comets hit?” 28 Across). Speaking of which, the label for that song was DECCA (22 Down).

The trickiest ones: NOOMDAB at 90 Down, for “Bad Moon Rising” (“1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival hit?”) – the BAD MOON “rises” from bottom to top; and LOATEENAGERVE at 66 Across, for “A Teenager in Love” (“1959 Dion and the Belmonts hit?”). The words A TEENAGER are literally placed “in” the word LOVE.

So, what did you think? Not bad. But here’s the place where I reiterate my longstanding complaint about music references being too old – nearly 60 years for “Rock Around the Clock”! – and I repeat my (so far empty) vow to create a similar puzzle with modern tunes. Although perhaps a Miley Cyrus reference was implied by the presence of TWERK at 7 Down (“Back it up, in a way”)? Yikes!

For Fun Dept.: There was lots of good fill in this grid, including TOO CAREFUL (“What fastidious people can’t be,” 16 Down), IN BAD SHAPE (“Suffering,” 3 Down), DICK AND JANE (“Primer pair,” 116 Across), SUBSISTENCE (“Kind of farming,” 23 Across), SGT. BILKO (“NCO of 1950s TV,” 65 Down) and – holy cow! – EMPIRICIST (“John Locke, philosophically,” 70 Down).

Haha Dept.: There were some really punny jokes, too. “Where to find screwdrivers and rusty nails” are BARROOMS (109 Across); “Rubber from Arabia?” is ALADDIN (93 Down); “Slanted writing” are EDITORIALS (75 Down); and “Runners in the cold?” are NOSES (125 Across).

Ouch! Dept.: “Memorable series in ‘Psycho'” are STABS (79 Across).

Learn Something New Every Day Dept.: From crossing words, I figured out that “The ‘T’ of Mr. T” stands for TERO (43 Down). Various biographies indicate he was born Lawrence Tureaud, which I’m guessing is a hard-to-pronounce French surname that some family members (including him) changed to its phonetic pronunciation, TERO. I also didn’t know that TARS is another word for “deck hands” (“Hands on deck,” 61 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.

Bright Ideas

New York Times crossword puzzle March 23 / Constructed by Ian Livengood

Love getting that “Aha!” moment when solving crosswords? You’ll get at least two of them today while working on this self-referential puzzle about THOMAS EDISON (86 Across).

You have to deduce the subject from crossing letters, or from the three-part witticism entered at 23-, 29- and 43 Across: I HAVE NOT FAILED, I’VE JUST FOUND TEN THOUSAND WAYS THAT WON’T WORK (” … motivational comment attributed to 86-Across”).

Circled letters in the grid symbolize an inventor's bright idea. (Click to enlarge.)
Circled letters in the grid symbolize an inventor’s bright idea. (Click to enlarge.)

Known as THE WIZARD OF MENLO PARK (96 Across) – the New Jersey town where he had a laboratory – Edison is known for inventing the INCANDESCENT LIGHT BULB (106 Across). Constructor Ian Livengood has cleverly hidden one in the grid, which you get by connecting the circled letters. An editor’s note indicates the letters, when read counterclockwise from the top, spell out “a phrase relating to the puzzle’s theme”: AHA MOMENT.

It’s a well done puzzle, although I’m wondering what the peg is … an anniversary of some type? Perhaps it’s a eulogy, considering that Edison’s signature achievement is being phased out of production in the U.S. – the bulbs no longer meet federal energy-efficiency standards.

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “Dolph of ‘Rocky IV'” is LUNDGREN (116 Across). Our city’s favorite fictional son just debuted on Broadway last week. Philly tourism officials hope the musical “Rocky” will convince theater-goers to travel down I-95 (or hop Amtrak) to see the sights that inspired the story.

Sports Section Dept. “United Center team” are the CHICAGO BULLS (12 Down), while “Five-time Super Bowl champions, informally” are THE NINERS (47 Down). The 49ers don’t play in the NFC SOUTH, but New Orleans does (“Saint’s home, for short,” 19 Across).

For Fun Dept.: Unusual entries in the puzzle include DNA MOLECULE (“Bit of a code,” 3 Down), SESAME BAGELS (“Deli stock with seeds,” 60 Down) and OPEN CIRCUIT (“What an electric current does not flow through,” 67 Down).

Cruel Joke Dept.: As this unending winter continues into spring – with more snow possible on Tuesday – there is not a TAN LINE to be found around here (“Sunbathing evidence,” 90 Down).

Doubled-Up Dept.: “D.C. mover” at 101 Down is the METRO, while the “D.C. mover and shaker: Abbr.” at 119 Across is a SEN(ator).

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.

It’s Better This Way

New York Times crossword puzzle March 16 / Constructed by Jeremy Newton

How do you get from SICK to WELL? By going to the doctor. Or by taking the sage advice of today’s puzzle: FOLLOWING THE PRESCRIPTION (“With 58-Down, a patient process? … or a hint to two consecutive letters in the answer to each of the seven starred clues,” 16 Down).

This clever crossword takes you through the healing process, starting with getting SICK in the upper left corner and then moving diagonally through a medicinal path to WELL in the lower right. SICK comes from the circled letters in SICK OF (“So over,” 1 Across), while WELL is from DO WELL (“Thrive, 119 Across).

This puzzle shows the path to wellness.
This puzzle shows the path to wellness. (Click to enlarge.)

The medicine, of course, is symbolized by the RX in each of the theme answers – RX being the abbreviation for “prescription.” The first is found in XERXES I OF PERSIA (“*He bested Leonidas at Thermopylae,” 23 Across), followed by FOUR-X-FOUR (“*Off-roader, often,” 31 Across).

Continuing to follow the prescription, you’ll find THE WINTER X GAMES (“*Annual draw for snocross fans,” 49 Across), GROUCHO MARX MUSTACHE (“*Iconic feature of comedy,” 65 Across), PROFESSOR XAVIER (“*Founder of Marvel’s School for Gifted Youngsters,” 79 Across), SOLVE FOR X (“*Frequent problem faced by algebra students,” 97 Across) and RETURN OF DOCTOR X (“*Horror flick starring Humphrey Bogart as a mad scientist, with ‘The’,” 108 Across). What a bizarre role for Bogey!

Silver Screen Dept.: Speaking of movies, “Clueless” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary” are ROM-COMS (40 Down). “Loud beast heard in theaters” is the MGM LION (57 Down), which nearly stumped me and was one of the last answers I filled in. And Xerxes is back in theaters now with “300: Rise of an Empire.” It’s the sequel to the stylized 2006 film “300,” which tells the story of Leonidas’ Spartans and their battle against the Persian king who considered himself a god.

Corner Drugstore Dept.: By the way, my first instinct when I get sick is to buy something OTC (“Like Advil or Aleve: Abbr.” 54 Across).

For Fun Dept.: Unusual entries in the grid include EAST-WEST (“How lines of latitude run,” 21 Down),  ADAM’S ALE (“Water, wryly,” 115 Across), RESCUE ME (“1965 R&B #1 song with the repeated lyric “Can’t you see that I’m lonely?'” 20 Across), THING IS (“‘That may be true, but …'” 55 Across) and HOT WAX (“Hair-razing stuff?” 56 Down)

New To Me Dept.: Apparently an L-BAR is a “Bent beam” (76 Across), which I got from crossing words. It’s also known as an angle iron.

Ugh Dept.: The other entry that took me forever to get was RSTU (“They’re 18 to 21,” 73 Down). The numbers refer to the letters’ places in the alphabet.

Shameless Promotion Dept.: Some of you may know that I am an aspiring constructor … and I’m thrilled to report my first puzzle was published this week in Games magazine! Still aiming to impress Will and get a grid printed in the NYT, of course, but one step at a time. Thanks to everyone for the supportive comments and “likes” on my Facebook page!

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: Today’s shout-out goes to my fellow Philadelphians as we brace for yet another snowfall tonight. Amid this never-ending winter, here’s a badly needed laugh featuring Groucho Marx and his mustache in “Duck Soup.”

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.

Nosy Nonsense

New York Times crossword puzzle March 9 / Constructed by Brendan Emmett Quigley

Between my jet lag coming back to Philly and the jump ahead to Daylight Saving Time, I’m operating four hours behind schedule and my brain is somewhat addled. Luckily, today’s puzzle was easy-peasy.

The theme answers add a “zee” sound to common phrases, as evidenced in the title: “Nosy Nonsense.” So a “Marvel from Idaho’s largest city?” is a BOISE WONDER (103 Across), while a “Picky little dog?” is a CHOOSY TOY (28 Across), from chew toy.

Others: “Business transactions free from government regulation?” are EASY COMMERCE (52 Across), for e-commerce. A “Barely remembered seaman?” is a HAZY SAILOR (36 Down). The “Sports score most likely to be on the highlight reel?” is a DOOZY POINT (44 Down). A “Carefree dairy product?” is BREEZY CHEESE (73 Across). “Optimistic theater audience?” is a ROSY HOUSE (101 Across). And “One unsatisfied with a ‘She loves me, she loves me not’ result?” is a DAISY TRADER (26 Across).

City of Brotherly Love Dept.: I’ll give a Philly shout-out to the aforementioned ROSY HOUSE, which comes from “row house,” which is what our fair city is filled with. Also will note the upcoming start of March Madness, otherwise known as the annual office bracket-guessing contest sponsored by NCAA (“Certain tourney overseer,” 105 Down). The Philly-area Villanova Wildcats may be one of the higher seeds this year.

City of Angels Dept.: Having just returned from a weeklong visit to my other hometown (Los Angeles), I’ll point out that a “College up the coast from L.A.” is UCSB (102 Down), for the University of California at Santa Barbara. And a “CBS series that, oddly, was filmed in L.A.” was CSI: NY (53 Down).

New To Me Dept.:  Was not familiar with STEPTOE (“Isolated hill surrounded by lava,” 8 Across) or EUROMART (“Continental free trade group,” 86 Across), both of which I got from crossing words.

Product Placement Dept.: You’ll find both ISOTONER (“Brand of gloves and slippers,” 84 Down) and DENTYNE (“Orbit rival,” 67 Across) in the grid.

You’ve Got To Be Kidding Dept.: MAZY is a word? As in maze-like? Seriously? Apparently it’s a synonym for “Labyrinthine” (66 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.

Oscar Double Features

New York Times crossword puzzle March 2 / Constructed by Alan Arbesfeld

Apologies for the late post; I’m blogging on PST (“The Oscars are awarded on it: Abbr.,” 8 Down). In fact, I solved this Hollywood-themed puzzle in The City of Angels  – and I have the $68 parking ticket to prove it.  Even more serendipitously, I’m watching Anne Hathaway give out the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as I’m typing this. (Spoiler alert! Jared Leto wins!)

But it’s going to take a while to get to the biggest prize of all, which is the subject of today’s puzzle: The theme answers consist of consecutive Best Picture titles (or Best Picture nominees*).

So “Nelson Mandela? [1995, 1985]” is a BRAVEHEART OUT OF AFRICA (23 Across). “One giving unreliable testimony? [1976, 1985*]” is a ROCKY WITNESS (30 Across). “Reason for missing a flight? [1970*, 2000*]” is AIRPORT TRAFFIC (53 Across). “Part of a line at O’Hare? [2002, 1976*]” is a CHICAGO TAXI DRIVER (68 Across). “Cheesy pickup line? [1944, 1995*]” is GOING MY WAY, BABE? (86 Across) “Reason all the computers are down? [1976*, 2005] is a NETWORK CRASH (106 Across). And a “Seaside outing? [1955*, 1954]” is a PICNIC ON THE WATERFRONT (118 Across).

Walk Of Fame Dept.: Brian DE PALMA (“Director of ‘Carrie’ and ‘Scarface'”) continues the Hollywood theme at 6 Across. The “Star of Mr. Hulot’s Holiday,” which I’ve never heard of, is Jacques TATI (43 Down). And a “Daughter in ‘The Sound of Music'” is LOUISA (10 Down). Maria von Trapp, the last surviving member of the singing family on which the movie is based, died last week. She was 99.

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: Both “Rocky” and “Witness” were filmed in the City of Brotherly Love. “Witness” takes place mostly in Amish country, in Lancaster County, but the plot gets going in Philly’s gorgeous 30th Street Station. I love seeing it on film.

New To Me Dept.: Crossing entries forced me to correct my answer of DUFF to BAFF at 27 Across (“Strike the ground in a golf swing”). Then I had to look up BAFF to make sure  it was right, because say what?  Also never heard of “The Divided Self,” nor its author R.D. LAING, which I got from crossing words. And I don’t think I’ve ever come across NISI (“Not yet final, legally,” 32 Down).

So To Speak Dept.: MAN ALIVE! is another way of saying “Holy cow!” (35 Down), while IT’S TRUE is like saying “I’m not kidding!” (49 Down).

For Fun Dept.: Unusual entries in the grid include TRADE WAR (“Reciprocal raising of tariffs, e.g.,” 13 Down), STILL LIFE (“Many a hanging,” 16 Down), PINPRICKS (“Small irritations,” 81 Down), ONE BY ONE (“Individually,” 5 Down), PAN ARAB (“Like Gamel Abdel Nasser’s movement,” 54 Down), MONARCHY (“Belgium or Denmark,” 87 Down), and FINAGLED (“Achieved through trickery,” 63 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.