Downright Tricky!

New York Times crossword puzzle June 29 / Constructed by Byron Walden

If you’re looking for a hint on today’s clever puzzle, read the title literally.

“Downright” is the “tricky” way that you have to enter the six theme answers – that is, down and to the right. The L-shaped entries are all three-word phrases that start with C-I-D … which gives you EL CID (“Spanish hero whose (name) is represented enigmatically six times in this puzzle,” 108 Down).

When in doubt, read the title literally. (Click to enlarge.)
When in doubt, read the title literally. (Click to enlarge.)

I became suspicious of a gimmick as soon as I saw “Tricky” in the title. Then when crossing words gave me CANON _ at 13 Down (“Palchelbel classic, familiarly”), I knew more than one letter had to go in that last square.  It clicked when I noticed the DIXIE in WINN DIXIE (“Southern grocery chain,” 109 Across) happened to be at a “right” angle for a “down” answer involving a C&W group (“1982 holiday country hit by Alabama,” 50 Down). CHRISTMAS IN DIXIE fit perfectly with the bend.

Others: CHIVALRY IS DEAD (“Lament about modern men,” 8 Down), COVERED IN DUST (“Like the contents of many attics,” 38 Down), CONSIDER IT DONE (“‘Right away, boss’,” 71 Down), CRISIS IN DARFUR (“Major humanitarian concern of the 2000s,” 32 Down) and the aforementioned CANON IN D by Pachelbel.

The Times ran a similar puzzle last year titled “Capital Ls,” which also used words entered at right angles. My only quibble with today’s is that some of the L answers didn’t dead-end: CHRISTMAS IN DIXIE ended with a black square, but COVERED IN DUST actually reads COVERED IN DUSTRIES before you hit a black square; same with CANON IN D BID.

What did you think?

For Fun Dept.: There was a lot of great fill in this puzzle, which makes up for the relative lack of theme entries. Among my favorites are YES, INDEED! (“‘Of course!’,” 56 Down), PADDED BRA (“Drag staple,” 100 Across), I HAD A HUNCH (“‘That’s what my Spidey sense told me’,” 3 Down), OFF BALANCE (“Bad way to be caught,” 77 Down), SALT MINING (“Enterprise for Morton,” 74 Down), YEARLY PHYSICAL (“Routine checkup,” 51 Across), FILM INDUSTRIES (“Hollywood and Bollywood, e.g.,” 86 Across) and I’VE MADE A DECISION (“Statement after long deliberation,” 67 Across).

Say What? Dept.: PICARO (“Rogue,” 100 Down) and ESTIVATE (“Stay inactive over the summer,” 58 Across) were both new words to me.

Who Knew? Dept.: “Material in the hats of Buckingham Palace guards” is BEAR FUR (89 Across). And I have never heard of a species called SPIKED ACES, which apparently are “Ray-finned fishes of the Southwest U.S.” (17 Down). When I tried to Google for a photo or even a written definition, all I came up with were references to this puzzle. Anyone else? (UPDATE: Kind readers have informed me the fishes are SPIKE DACES. See comments below.)

Blast From The Past Dept.: “It’s Tricky” by Run-DMC was one of the anthems of the 1980s. I looked up the video out of a sense of nostalgia and found it co-stars Penn and Teller! Awesome.


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.

Dime Store

New York Times crossword puzzle June 22 / Constructed by Elizabeth C. Gorski

Brother, can you spare a dime? If not, you can find one in this puzzle.

More precisely, you can find TEN CENTS – literally 10 squares where the ¢ symbol appears. All the theme answers contain the word CENT, with the added twist that the C should be entered as a ¢ sign. That allows it to function as a C for across answers and an I for down answers:

Make cents? (Click to enlarge.)
Make cents? (Click to enlarge.)

_ ¢ENTENNIAL (“2014, for Doublemint gum,” 23 Across) crosses with TAIL (“Dangerous part of an alligator,” 1 Down). IRIDES-¢ENT (“Like mother-of-pearl,” 44 Across) crosses with ISLIP (“Town on the south shore of Long Island,” 45 Down).

_ VI¢ENTE FOX (“Mexican president of the early 2000s,” 25 Across) crosses with the first I in PAIN PILL (“Percocet, for one,” 12 Down). The second I crosses with the C in ¢ENTRIST (“Middle-of-the-road,” 40 Across).

_ ¢ENTIPEDES (“Bugs that are technically misnamed,” 70 Across) crosses with WRITE-UPS (“Articles in a paper,” 58 Down). PER¢ENTAGE (“Agent’s cut,” 93 Across) crosses with TOMEI (“Actress who co-starred in ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’,” 71 Down).

_ I’M INNO¢ENT (“Defendant’s cry,” 116 Across) crosses with IAN (“Actor McKellen,” 117 Down). DE¢ENT MEAL (“Something square to eat?” 113 Across) crosses with AIDE (“Right hand,” 106 Down). And RE¢ENT PAST (“Several days ago, say,” 66 Across) crosses with IRON-ON (“Like some patches,” 68 Down).

What do all those ¢ add up to? TEN ¢ENTS (“Total value of the symbols created by the special crossings in this puzzle,” 96 Across). (That answer itself crosses with I SWEAR at 97 Down – “‘Honest!'”)

Pretty cool, huh? I generally love puzzles by constructor Elizabeth C. Gorski, and this creative one was no exception. Some of the fill was a bit cheesy, though. Since when is SMOOTHEN a word (“Sand, maybe,” 101 Across)? I usually just say “smooth.” And I’ve never heard of the THI – or seen it used in a crossword. It’s apparently short for Temperature-Humidity Index (“Summer weather stat.” 29 Down). And STU Jackson was barely an NBA coach (88 Down), though he was a league executive for a while.  (Phil Jackson, on the other hand … )

That said, I liked STATE DEPT (“Hillary Clinton’s domain, once: Abbr.” 80 Down), SPEED TRAP (“Where many tickets are distributed,” 2 Down) and THE NILE (“Agatha Christie mystery setting,” 5 Down).

Memory Lane Dept.: Puzzle editor Will Shortz ran a crossword with a similar monetary theme last year. Constructor Daniel A. Finan that incorporated both $ and ¢ symbols in a clever grid called “Show Me The Money.”

Fun Facts Dept.: TULANE is the “Southern university whose newspaper is the Hullabaloo” (65 Across). “Of Peter O’Toole’s eight Oscar nominations,” he’s won NONE (120 Across). And the “Youngest-ever French Open winner, 1990” is Monica SELES (53 Down), who recently got engaged to billionaire Tom Golisano.

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.


New York Times crossword puzzle June 15 / Constructed by Tony Orbach

Boy, dads sure got the shaft considering the royal crossword treatment moms got on Mother’s Day. But they really shouldn’t complain, considering this was a pretty easy puzzle to solve. Happy Father’s Day!

The theme – like the one a couple of weeks ago – is a literal interpretation of the title. In the previous grid titled “Aladdin,” the letters AL were added to common phrases (AL-ADD-IN); today, constructor Tony Orbach tried to “Enrich” phrases by adding EN.

So a “Naval officer who’s an expert in astrology?” is an ENSIGN OF THE ZODIAC (99 Across). And a “Religious ceremony for two Hollywood brothers?” is a COEN ORDINATION (111 Across), for siblings Joel and Ethan Coen (of “Fargo” fame, among many others).

Others: “Episode title for a cooking show featuring chicken recipes?” is PREPARATION HEN (23 Across). “Goal for a comic working the Strip?” is LEAVENING LAS VEGAS (32 Across). “Informal advice to an overeager picker?” is LET ‘ER RIPEN (47 Across). “Request to represent a Minnesota senator’s side of a debate?” is CAN I BE FRANKEN (67 Across)? And “Tarzan’s response when asked if the noodles are cooked?” is RAMEN TOUGH (82 Across), a somewhat obscure reference to a Dodge truck slogan.

Along Those Lines Dept.: The puzzle also contained ENRAGE (“Incense,” 17 Down) and EN-DASH, the typographical term for “-” (90 Down).

To The Point Dept.: “Bit of needlework?” is TAT (43 Across), while “Do some needlework” is SEW (45 Down). And a “Writing tip” is a PEN NIB (65 Across).

For Fun Dept.: Interesting fill in the puzzle included PB AND J (“Sack lunch staple, for short,” 1 Across), PERFECT TEN (“Beauty ideal,” 16 Down) and PONIED UP (“Forked over,” 51 Down). And the “Option for ‘Which came first …?'” is not the chicken, but THE EGG (12 Down).

Born From Jets Dept.: The clue that stumped me was “What a 9-5 worker worked on?” I had SAA_ entered at 45 Across but could not for the life of me fill in the last box. The answer is SAAB, which once made a poorly punctuated car model called the 9-5. Looks like the Swedish automaker might be making vehicles again, two years after production shut down.

Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me? Dept.: I’m just a tad jealous of 23-year-old Anna Shechtman, who I just learned spent her first year out of college as an assistant to crossword editor Will Shortz. Had I known such a job existed when I was that young, I would have spent more time constructing puzzles and less time covering small-town school board meetings. Still, I’m thrilled at the idea of bringing fresh young talent into the puzzle kingdom. And I’m guessing if you ask her “You dig?”, she’ll reply I’M HIP (84 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.

Strike One

New York Times crossword puzzle June 8 / Constructed by Patrick Berry

We’re getting into the heart of baseball season, so I suppose it’s only appropriate to have a puzzle titled “Strike One.” But today’s crossword has nothing to do with America’s favorite pastime.

The theme answers are fairly boring when read straight on. Turns out you have “strike one” letter from each of those entries and replace it with an X to transform it into something else. This hint was spelled out at 124 Across: “Struck out, as one letter in each of this puzzle’s theme answers” – X’ED.

The clues also suggested this trick by using the strikethrough technique. Here’s an example at 23 Across: “Symbols of happiness Transmissions with colons, dashes and parentheses?” The answer to the stricken clue is entered in the grid: SMILEY FACES. The answer to the second clue – which you get by literally X’ing out a letter –  is SMILEY FAXES.

I have to admit that I solved two theme answers – and furrowed my brow really deeply for several minutes – before I understood what was going on. The puzzle isn’t very elegant, since actually entering the X in the grid just makes a mess; it doesn’t jibe with the answers going down. So you basically have to do it in your head, which isn’t really as much fun.

Other theme answers: “Sun Tzu tome Madame Tussaud’s specialty?” at 29 Across is THE ART OF WAR (WAX). “‘Star Wars’ character Where droids go to dry out?” at 38 Across is ARTOO DETOO (DETOX). “Gibbons and siamangs Mountaintop that’s not the very top?” at 42 Across are LESSER APES (APEX). And “Pageant Circumstances that render someone attractive?” at 56 Across is BEAUTY CONTEST (CONTEXT).

More: “Pine, e.g. Dinosaur that never goes out of style?” at 78 Across is an EVERGREEN TREE (T-REX). “Studio substitute Squarish bed?” at 92 Across is a BODY (BOXY) DOUBLE. “Member of a certain 1990s-2000s rock band Censor unhappy with ‘Family Guy’ and ‘Glee,’ maybe?” at 95 Across is a FOO (FOX) FIGHTER. “Children’s song Ignore the rest of the lunch I brought and just eat the fish?” at 102 Across is SKIP TO MY LOU (LOX). And “After-dinner display One way to see a pie’s filling?” at 113 Across is a DESSERT TRAY (X-RAY).

Another quibble: Though a strike in bowling is denoted by an X, a strike-out in baseball is marked with a K. (Which, of course, denotes three strikes.)

What did you think?

Haha Dept.: Among the more amusing clues were “Sucker?” for VAMPIRE (20 Across), “Order in the court?” for ALL RISE (13 Down), “You’ll see a lot of them” for NUDISTS (123 Across) and “Brown greenery?” for IVY (72 Down). (Brown University is an Ivy League school. Rim shot, please!)

Who Knew? Dept.: The world “Capital with more than 300 lakes within its limits” is OSLO (21 Across).

In Memoriam Dept.: “Caesar on TV” is SID (115 Down), who died earlier this year.

One Degree Of Kevin Bacon Dept.: “Sedgwick of ‘The Closer'” is actress KYRA (27 Across), who happens to be married to him.

Philly Shout-Outs Dept.: “Four-time pro hoops M.V.P.” is DR J (73 Across), the nickname for 76ers legend Julius Erving. And an exercise venue, for short is YMCA (104 Down). What does that have to do with Philly, you ask? Well, it so happens the Village People are in town today for the Philly Pride Parade. And you know they will sing that song.

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.


New York Times crossword puzzle June 1 / Constructed by Tom McCoy

You shouldn’t need a genie to solve today’s amusing puzzle. Though the title may put you in mind of Arabian nights and magic lamps, this “Aladdin” is far less exotic. It simply needs to be broken down and taken literally: AL – ADD – IN.

The theme answers are all common phrases with the letters “AL” added in. So a “King’s move?” is a CHANGE OF PALACE (23 Across) while a “Dissertation on people’s inherent spitefulness?” is OF MALICE AND MEN (118 Across).

Others: “Principles espoused during Women’s History Month?” are IDEALS OF MARCH (37 Across). The “Ability to walk a tightrope or swallow a sword?” is a CIRCUS TALENT (46 Across). A “Dream for late sleepers?” is A FAREWELL TO ALARMS (66 Across). A “Waterway leading to a SW German city?” is the CANAL OF WORMS (89 Across). And a “Slinky going down the stairs?” is a SPRING FALLING (95 Across).

For Fun Dept.: Interesting words in the fill include SMATTERING (“Soupçon,” 57 Across), LONG PANTS (“Trousers,” 81 Down), PRESELECTS (“Chooses beforehand,” 79 Across), NEO-NATAL (“Like some care,” 29 Down) and PUSSY FOOT (“Not be bold,” 13 Down).

Haha Dept.: Ogden Nash always makes me laugh. Here, “The ostrich roams the great SAHARA. / Its mouth is wide, its neck is narra” (2 Down).

On The Map Dept.: I learned that a “Treasure Stater” is a MONTANAN (122 Across), and that New Haven is The ELM City (77 Down).

Modern World Dept.: Kudos for the 21st-century entry HIPSTER (“One parodied on ‘Portlandia’,” 52 Down) and the surprisingly fresh clue for PUN – “Feature of many a Ludacris lyric” (93 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.