Change Of Program

New York Times crossword puzzle May 25 / Constructed by Dan Schoenholz

Greetings from the Lone Star State! We’re spending the weekend in the DFW area to help a friend celebrate his 50th birthday. We’re also taking in some sights along the way, and today – after blogging at Sundance Square in Fort Worth – we’re going to see the longhorns at the Stockyards. Yee-haw!

So let’s get to it: This puzzle was a breeze, right? The grid is filled with slightly-altered names of famous TV shows – the “Change of Program” referred to in the title. A “Cobbler’s heirloom?” is AWL IN THE FAMILY (110 Across). “Stoners’ memoirs?” are DAZE OF OUR LIVES (23 Across). “Leverage in divorce negotiations?” is THE EX FILES (28 Across). And a “Dumbstruck duo?” is THE AWED COUPLE (46 Across).

More: “Tale of metropolitan religious diversity?” is SECTS AND THE CITY (62 Across). “Having trouble slowing down?” is BRAKING BAD (99 Across). “Tight spot in South Florida?” is MIAMI VISE (76 Down). “Double takes?” are TWIN PEEKS (15 Down).  And a “Grant Wood portrayal?” is AMERICAN IDYLL, a combination reference to the singing contest and the artist’s famous “American Gothic” painting.

Speaking Of Idols Dept.: Monty Python’s ERIC IDLE has the most crossword-friendly name I’ve ever seen (“‘Spamalot’ writer and lyricist,” 115 Across).

Dirty Mind Dept.: This is horribly embarrassing, but for a moment – just a moment! – after seeing I had _ _ _ _ _ IP entered for “Immodest display” (12 Down), I thought the answer might be NIP SLIP. Of course, it was the much cleaner EGO TRIP. Phew.

I Do Dept.: “Wedding sight” is a BRIDE (99 Down) while a “Wedding site” is the ALTAR (68 Down).

Cheap Dept.: “Comes to pass, old-style” is the unfortunately obscure entry HAPS (105 Down).

Haha Dept.: “Relatives of turtles” are PRALINES (84 Down). “Kitchen drawer?” is AROMA (92 Across). “Neon frame?” are ENS (86 Down), for the Ns that bookend the word.

And a “Comment upon heading off” (20 Across) is AWAY WE GO!

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.

Oh, Who?

New York Times crossword puzzle May 18 / Constructed by Joe DiPietro

After solving today’s Irish-themed puzzle, I ended up taking a stroll through Philly’s Italian Market Festival and buying a plate of street tacos. Such are the wonders of life in the city.

This grid left me wondering a bit as well.  Constructor Joe DiPietro uses the O-apostrophe naming convention to create punny monikers for Irish people with various occupations. But the puzzle seems to have a split personality.

First we meet the “Irish arborist” WILL O’TREES  (24 Across) and the “Irish woodworker” PATTY O’FURNITURE (63 Across). Then comes MAE O’CLINIC, the “Irish health care worker” (110 Across), and JUNE O’ALASKA, the “Irish dog sled racer” (110 Across). Fair enough.

Yet then we meet ANGIE O’GRAM, who instead of being an Irish cardiologist is a “chemist” (22 Across). And COREY O’GRAPH is not an Irish dancer but an “algebra teacher” (47 Across). I get that chemists measure things in grams and that algebra uses graphs, but it’s kind of confusing, no? And MEL O’YELLOW (112 Across) is not a soda magnate but a painter? NATE O’SUMMIT (83 Across) is not a diplomat but a mountain climber? Hmmm. And I’m not even sure what profession does JEAN O’TYPING (32 Across), but I’m pretty sure it’s not a secretary.

What did you think?

On The Map Dept.: Speaking of other countries, a “Canadian blockhead” is a HOSER (87 Across). And BIG IN JAPAN applies to “(S)ome bands with only modest Western popularity” (3 Down).

Seriously? Dept.:  I really want to ask the Philly police if they’ve ever filed CARNAP charges against anyone (“Steal, as a vehicle,” 14 Down). Also in this category is the borderline cheesy PUT ‘ER THERE (“‘Let’s shake!'” 69 Down).

Almost Stumped Me Dept.: My fruit and floral knowledge is somewhat limited, so I had to guess – correctly, it turns out – that a “Pear or quince” was a POME (63 Down). I know “pomme” is French for “apple,” and I had PO _ E, but I wasn’t sure because it crossed with ARU_ (“Jack-in-the-pulpit, e.g.” 75 Across). Never heard of the plant term ARUM, though I do know Bob Arum is a major figure in professional boxing.

Stumped Me, The Sequel Dept.: I left one square blank: T _ PEE (“Pith helmet,” 37 Down), which crossed with T _ O (“All-human bridge?” 43 Across). I should have gotten the joke in the second clue – TOO is the “bridge” in the phrase “All TOO human.” But I’ve never heard of a TOPEE, which is something you’d wear on a SAFARI – at least the kind that’s not a “Preinstalled iPhone browser” (53 Down).

For Fun Dept.: Long answers that weren’t part of the theme include TOSS A SALAD (“Prepare the first course, say,” 72 Down) and CLERK’S TALE (“Chaucer work that invokes the book of Job, with ‘The’,” 15 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.

For Mother

New York Times crossword puzzle May 11 / Constructed by Peter A. Collins

Who needs a brunch reservation on Mother’s Day when the NYT has given us a maternal-themed crossword?

This MOM-themed puzzle breaks one cardinal rule of construction with the presence of two-letter words. (Click to enlarge.)
This MOM-themed puzzle breaks one cardinal rule of construction with the presence of two-letter words. (Click to enlarge.)

Today’s fun puzzle was both a visual treat for its MOM design and for the many mothers found in the grid.

Going across, solvers found Mother JONES, Mother TERESA, Mother LODE, Mother SHIP, Mother TONGUE and Mother GOOSE. Going down, you encountered Mother HUBBARD and Mother COUNTRY.

All of that to say: “Happy Mother’s DAY!” (120 Down).

Interestingly, this clever creation by Peter A. Collins violates a cardinal rule of constructing by allowing two-letter words. But I guess you can’t make a recognizable “M” shape without a little fudging. (And good moms let you slide on some stuff occasionally, right?) The answers are OH (“No kidding!” 36 Across), HE (“Element #2’s symbol,” 38 Across), EM (“Dorothy’s aunt,” 101 Across) and A.I. (“2001 Spielberg sci-fi film,” 103 Across). You’ll notice I had to correct my initial answer there, which was E.T. (Clearly, I read right over the year in the clue.)

For Fun Dept.: Most of the long answers in this puzzle aren’t part of the theme, like DON’T START IN ON ME (“Words to one who’s about to go off,” 48 Down); AVANT GARDE (“Pushing the envelope, say,” 59 Down); STEEL DRUM (“Calypso staple,” 19 Across); AMERICANA (“Smithsonian artifacts,” 123 Across); and LAUGH LINES (“Most people don’t think they’re funny,” 74 Down).

Food For Thought Dept.: “Backsliding, to a dieter” is PUTTING ON WEIGHT (7 Down). Speaking of eating, I just saw the new documentary “Fed Up.”

Famous Names Dept.: Talk about strange bedfellows! The grid features JOE BIDEN (“Politician who appeared as himself on NBC’s ‘Parks and Recreation,'” 14 Down), CLARA BOW (“The original ‘It’ girl,” 63 Across) and Dennis RODMAN (“Seven-time N.B.A. rebounding champ, 1992-98,” 56 Down). It also features NORTH KOREA as the answer for a “four-time destination” for Rodman (54 Across and 58 Down).

Really? Dept.: A friend of mine has a beloved SHIH-TZU, which I never knew meant “Literally, ‘lion dog'” (98 Across). This dog is so far from being a lion that it’s almost comical.

Philly Shout-Out: “Second of six?” is a terrible clue for the tough entry SHORT I (100 Across), which refers to the short “i” sound in the second letter of the word “six.” Everyone here in Wawa country knows that a SHORTI is a 6-inch hoagie. Wawa, our convenience store of choice, just celebrated its 50th anniversary.

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.

Joined Sides

New York Times crossword puzzle May 4 / Constructed by Mary Lou Guizzo

Today’s very sharp puzzle is filled with double-speak – if you know where to look.

The hint lies at 70 Across: DOUBLE-EDGED (“Like some swords … or a hint to this puzzle’s theme,” 70 Across). And although it took me a while, I finally realized the clever implication: The answers along the grid’s four edges are preceded by the implied word “double.”

So the top side features (DOUBLE) BARRELED (“Like many shotguns,” 1 Across); (DOUBLE) AGENT (“Mole,” 9 Across); and (DOUBLE) HEADER (“Back-to-back games,” 14 Across).

The perimeter is key to solving "Joined Sides." (Click to enlarge.)
The perimeter is key to solving “Joined Sides.” (Click to enlarge.)

Continuing clockwise, you get: (DOUBLE) ROOM (“Hotel accommodation for more than one,” 19 Down); (DOUBLE) TEAM (“Gang up on, as in basketball,” 41 Down); (DOUBLE) BED (“Relative of a twin,” 74 Down); and (DOUBLE)-CROSSED (“Betrayed,” 101 Down).

Bottom side: (DOUBLE) STANDARD (“Source of some discrimination,” 129 Across); (DOUBLE) HELIX (“Genetic structure,” 128 Across); (DOUBLE) DECKER (“Classic London transport,” 127 Across).

Left side: (DOUBLE) BOND (“Attraction in a carbon dioxide molecule,” 112 Down); (DOUBLE) TAKE (“Reaction of surprise,” 79 Down); (DOUBLE) DIP (“Commit a chip-eating faux pas,” 53 Down); and (DOUBLE) BASSOON (“Wind instrument pitched an active lower than its smaller cousin,” 1 Down).

I think I was halfway through the puzzle, bordering on panic, before I figured it out. I had the central answer, DOUBLE-EDGED, and even had several of the theme answers entered … but I never thought anything was missing. I don’t know much about firearms, so BARRELED seemed like an entirely plausible answer by itself for “Like many shotguns.” And AGENT seemed like a terse but still accurate synonym for “Mole.”

I began wondering if the title “Joined Sides” meant words that ended on the right were somehow linked to words that started on the left? Nope. Then I took another look at the edges, and it hit me when I focused on BED as the answer for “Relative of a twin.” BED by itself seemed too much of a shortcut and very un-Shortz-like. But (DOUBLE) BED … well, that was just genius.

Doubled-Up  Dept.: Sick of doubles yet? “Enter quickly” was a twice-used clue in this puzzle, yielding RUN ON IN at 3 Down and HOP INTO at 14 Down.

Silver Screen Dept.: “‘Platoon’ setting” is VIETNAM (29 Across), while “‘Platoon’ director” is OLIVER STONE (34 Across). “Thelma and Louise, e.g.” are TITLE ROLES (79 Across). And “Dimmed stars?” are HAS-BEENS (39 Down).

Golden Microphone Dept.: “Singer Christina” is AGUILERA (20 Across) while “The Who’s ‘My Generation,’ e.g.” is a DEBUT ALBUM (60 Across). The “Start of a Beatles refrain” is OB-LA-DI (77 Across).

Banner Trivia Dept.: I was surprised to discover that the “Country whose flag says ‘God is great’ 22 times” is IRAN (92 Down). How had I not noticed that before? A quick check of the design reveals that I had mistaken the script for fancy borders along the two stripes.

Say What? Dept.: I puzzled out two unfamiliar terms in this crossword. I’ve heard of a sloe gin fizz, but never a RAMOS gin fizz (21 Across)? (I’m more of a gin-and-tonic girl myself.) And “Heath evergreens” are apparently known as ERICAS (7 Down), an answer I would have clued using famous females with that name. Then again … those pickings seem to be pretty slim. (Or maybe I’m just not hip enough to recognize any of them.)

Note: This post has been updated to add a photo.

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.