All posts by Kathy Matheson


New York Times, March 15

I haven’t entered a single letter in the puzzle yet, but judging from the title, I’m going to guess that the theme answers all have an extra “S” at the beginning (“prior esses”). And this is without actually knowing what a “prioress” is, so I looked it up: It’s a nun in charge of a priory. I’ll have to remember that for Scrabble.

We’ll see if I’m right.

Update: I was half right. The themed answers are common two-word phrases with an extra “s” in front of each word. So 23 Across, “Ridiculed someone as loudly as possible?” is SCREAMED SCORN; 57 Across, “Change devices that divert trains to different tracks?” is SWITCH SHUNTS.

One other thing: Once I confirmed my extra “s” theory, it was easy to automatically put an “s” into the first box of every theme answer, thus providing a little extra help with the corresponding down clues.

A couple of shout-outs to my city made me smile: 90 Down, “2008 World Series Winner” and 115 Down, “With 47-Down, Oscar nominee for ‘Ali.” Shame on you if I have to tell you the answers are PHILLIE and WILL SMITH, one of our favorite native sons.

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

Eat Your Vegetables

Merl Reagle, March 15

This puzzle is another corny one, pun intended. Reagle often uses puns for his themed answers; this one is all about vegetables.

I’m not a huge pun fan, and sometimes I feel like his are forced. But most of these are OK; a couple even made me smile (21 Across: “Answer me! Was it creamed or boiled?” Answer: THE SPINACH INQUISITION).

The “Veggie plea?” of 51 Across (GIVE PEAS A CHANCE) is borderline tired; it made me think of that faux hippie bumper sticker, “Visualize Whirled Peas.”

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

See the Secret Word

Merl Reagle, March 8

I’m not a big fan of puzzles where you have to explain the theme beforehand. In this case, there’s a big block of text before the across clues that’s labeled “How to Play.” It proceeds to tell you that there’s a hidden six-letter word in each of the theme answers, but the letters aren’t necessarily all together. For example, the word “sample” is hidden, left to right, in the phrase “sugar maple.”

That’s kind of a cheesy way to “hide” something, in my opinion, and doesn’t really give me the “Aha!” moment that I’m looking for in a crossword. Even so, I found the hidden word — HIDDEN, wouldn’t you know — in all of the theme answers that otherwise seem completely unrelated (66 Across, IRISH INDEPENDENCE, and 100 Across, HOLIDAY DECORATIONS). And I think you know you’re stretching it when it takes two linked long answers (45 Across, THE LITTLE OLD and 51 Across, LADY FROM PASADENA) to make up one theme entry.

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

One More Thing

New York Times, March 8

The title gives a big clue that the theme answers have something extra in them … but what? Here’s a hint: Postscript.

That’s actually what P.S. stands for when you add that little afterthought to a letter. Letter? I know, such a throwback. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a P.S. on an e-mail. (Quick trivia question: What does R.S.V.P. stand for? Repondez, s’il vous plait. Respond, please!)

Anyway, all of the theme answers have the letters “PS” added to them. So the answer to 23 Across, “Rachael Ray activity eliciting oohs and aahs?” is “COOKING WITH GASPS” — a play on “cooking with gas.”

For 47 Across, “Advice to actor Perry when delivering a baby?” the answer is the clever “USE THE FORCEPS LUKE” — a reference to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s famous “Use the force, Luke!” advice to Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars.” 

P.S. A shout-out to my friend Melissa on 11 Down, “What the 300 defended.” The answer is SPARTA, although the movie “300” (which she worked on!) depicts the Battle of Thermopylae.

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

Good and Bad

New York Times, March 1

I’m a little puzzled as to why the NYT felt like adding a little explainer after the title, noting the asterisked clues were “good” by including the first letter, and “bad” by dropping it. I thought the point of the puzzle was to figure out on your own what the theme means. Moreover, all of the clues were clearly themed without the asterisk — they all started with “Good and bad for a …”

That being said, it was a pretty good theme. 75 Across, “*Good and bad for a jungle guide” leads to TRUSTY MACHETE. So it’s either trusty or rusty; I know which one I’d choose. 37 Across, “*Good and bad for a marketer” is CLOSING A SALE.

I have to admit, though, that 23 Across fooled me for a bit: “*Good and bad for a motorist” initially led me to enter SCARELESS DRIVER; I thought it made sense, although I guess “scareless” isn’t exactly a word. Turns out it was the homophone WRECKLESS DRIVER. Same sentiment, and it fits with all the down clues, which also helps.

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy