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.

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