On Wheels

New York Times crossword puzzle April 20 / Constructed by Elizabeth C. Gorski

Be careful making your way through today’s clever puzzle: It’s filled with cars, and there’s no crosswalk in sight.

Constructor Elizabeth C. Gorski is known for great visual tricks, so I immediately focused on the answers containing circled letters. The first one I solved yielded an O in each circle: TO YOU (“Toast words after ‘Here’s’,” 26 Across). Hmmm. Kinda seems like she’s trying to symbolize the “wheels” in the title, no? But I was stuck, partly because I mistakenly wrote ALFY for “Woody’s ‘Annie Hall’ role” at 3 Down. (I later realized it’s ALVY.)

Today's puzzle is a veritable parking lot. (Click to enlarge.)
Today’s puzzle is a veritable parking lot. (Click to enlarge.)

So I moved on and quickly found two more O’s in the circles of BOLEROS (“Short open jackets,” 41 Across). The answer directly above that came easily: MUSTANG SALLY (“1966 Wilson Pickett R&B hit,” 34 Across). Well, whaddya know? The MUSTANG is perfectly balanced over the “wheels” in BOLEROS. Pretty neat.

Other vehicles: The Hyundai SONATA, in HORN SONATA (“Recital piece for a wind player,” 25 Across); the Cadillac SEVILLE, in BARBER OF SEVILLE (“Opera based on a play by Pierre Beaumarchais, with ‘The’,” 54 Across); the Dodge CHARGER, in SAN DIEGO CHARGER (“Qualcomm Stadium athlete,” 76 Across); the Volkswagen BEETLE, in BEETLE BAILEY (“Walker’s strip,” 93 Across); the Kia OPTIMA, in OPTIMA CARD (“Visa alternative,” 110 Across); the Subaru FORESTER, in C.S. FORESTER (“‘The African Queen’ novelist,” 112 Across); and the Honda CIVIC, from CIVIC PRIDE (“Attribute of Elks or Lions Club members,” 23 Across).

Mag Wheels / Wheels Mag Dept.: A place to read more about these cars is MOTOR Trend magazine (16 Down).

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: A “Mobile home seeker?” is CALDER, as in artist Alexander Calder. His mobile “Ghost” can be found in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and his father’s Swann Memorial Fountain is one of my favorite spots in the city. His grandfather, Alexander Milne Calder, created the massive sculpture of William Penn that’s perched atop City Hall. (No, it’s not Benjamin Franklin!)

Plumbing Dept.: It’s not worth explaining how I screwed up my initial entry for “Pipe valves” at 43 Across. Suffice to say that when I finally figured out what it was supposed to be, it was a term I had never heard: STOPCOCKS. I also wrongly entered DEACON at 93 Down (“English church official”) and had change it to the more esoteric BEADLE after filling in some surrounding answers.

Um, Who? Dept.: Crossing words gave me RANDI as the “‘Amazing’ debunker” at 75 Down, but I had to look it up to understand the answer. Apparently former magician James Randi and his foundation work to expose “supernatural” phenomena and the like.

Short Circuit Dept.: EES (“Some M.I.T. grads: Abbr.” 88 Down) are EES, which would really be written “EEs,” which is short for electrical engineers. Cheap.

Hoppy Holidays Dept.: Today is Easter, so I’ll point out the “Query from Judas” at 97 Down: IS IT I?

For Fun Dept.: Some fun words in the fill, including COLD CEREAL (“Quaker production,” 46 Down), SNOWY EGRET (“Bird whose feathers were once prized by milliners,” 43 Down), ANDRONICUS (“Shakespeare’s ‘Titus ___’,” 38 Down), SCOTT TUROW (“Best-selling novelist whom Time called ‘Bard of the Litigious Age’,” 21 Across) and COTTON BALL “Makeup removal item,” 114 Across).

Haha Dept.: “City that sounds like a humdinger?” is BUTTE (96 DOWN). Get it? It’s pronounced BYOOT, as in “beaut”? Me neither.

Whoops! Dept.: Reader Bob Lee gently corrected me on 25 Across, which of course should be HORN SONATA, not HORA as I wrote in my grid.  (See comments below.) Thanks!

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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6 thoughts on “On Wheels”

  1. Greetings from Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, Kathy! I have followed your crossword postings with pleasure for some time now, but until today I have not felt compelled to submit a response. However, the lack of a comment all week from either you or any of your readers regarding an error in this past week’s puzzle (“On Wheels”) has moved me to write. Clue 102 across, “Like equinoxes,” presumes an incorrect answer, “biannual.” Contrary to increasingly widespread opinion, “biannual” means “every two years,” not “twice a year,” which is “semi-annual.” Since equinoxes occur every March and September, “biannual” is clearly the wrong answer for that clue. Frankly, I’m surprised that neither the author nor the editor caught the error prior to publication. Keep up the good work, though. I very much enjoy reading your blog.

  2. Hi Harold! I really appreciate the kind words! And you make a very good point, one that I had noticed as I solved but then promptly forgot about as I wrote my post. I did a little sleuthing and found that a couple other solvers complained about BIANNUAL on the NYT’s Wordplay blog. In response, another commenter noted that while BIENNIAL means every two years, BIANNUAL is now accepted in both contexts – to mean “twice a year” and “every two years.” So I looked it up, and entries in Merriam-Webster and dictionary.com seem to support the idea that it has two meanings – and is therefore pretty useless, I would argue. Thanks so much for writing!

  3. D’oh! You are right! Will fix and credit you. Sometimes I think “station” is abbreviated however it best fits that particular puzzle. I never see it abbreviated anywhere else. Thank you!

  4. I stand corrected, and I owe you and your readers an apology. I should have taken the time to refer to my dictionaries before posting my comment. Instead, I relied upon my lessons from school and what seems to me to be the clear meaning derived from the word’s etymology. After all, there’s no such confusion with biweekly or bimonthly. So while the published clue and answer were correct according to current usage, I think I’ll stick with “twice a year” or “semiannual” instead of “biannual.”

  5. Don’t worry about it, Harold! This is a place for discussion, and you started a very good one. Feel free to share your thoughts as often as you like.

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