All posts by Kathy Matheson

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.

Aladdin

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.

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.

Predictable Partings

New York Times crossword puzzle April 27 / Constructed by John Lampkin

Had to work my day job on this sunny spring Sunday, so apologies for the late post. Luckily, this easy grid allowed me to finish in near-record time – or LICKETY SPLIT, as the soda jerk at 108 Across might say.

Today’s theme is all about emergency exits. The hasty departures are common phrases made punny by the occupations they’re linked to. So “The paparazzo … WAS GONE IN A FLASH” (23 Across) while “The demolitionist … BLEW THE JOINT” (35 Across). Others:

_ “The civil engineer … HIT THE ROAD” (55 Across) while “The lingerie manufacturer … SLIPPED AWAY” (60 Across).

_ “The chicken farmer … FLEW THE COOP” (69 Across) while “The sound technician … MADE TRACKS” (74 Across).

_ “The film director … QUIT THE SCENE” (92 Across) while “The soda jerk … RAN LICKETY SPLIT” (108 Across).

_ “The van driver … MOVED ON” (84 Down) while “The paper doll maker … CUT OUT” (89 Down).

_ And finally, “The percussionist … BEAT IT” (17 Down) while “The ecdysiast … TOOK OFF” (15 Down). Confession: I have no idea what an ecdysiast is – maybe a nudist? A quick check of the dictionary … and I’m close. It’s a stripper.

An impressive number of theme answers, but pretty predictable once you figured out the trick. (Which, of course, is what the puzzle’s title promised.)

Ugh Dept.: There were quite a few fudges to make this grid work, the worst being DO TO A T (“Execute perfectly,” 100 Across). IKON was also not one of my favorites (“Religious figure: Var.” 102 Down).

Well, I’m not sure what type of parting would be ascribed to a crossword blogger, but I’m going to skedaddle. It’s a lot more fun than logging off.

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.