Architectural Drawing

Eiffel Tower, NYT-style
Eiffel Tower, NYT-style

New York Times, March 29

Bonjour! This puzzle had a French flair not immediately obvious from its title. It was also one of those puzzles that my boyfriend would describe as “not fair,” because it doesn’t follow the basic rule of crossword puzzledom: one letter per square.

I realized this after I had filled in nearly all the letters for 10 Down, “Insurance giant” — A_NA — and 21 Across, “1986 self-titled album whose cover was Andy Warhol’s last work” — AR_HA. The only insurance giant I know that could possibly use those letters is AETNA, which would mean squeezing the ET into a single square. Conveniently, squeezing ET into that square also gave me ARETHA. 

I knew then that was the gimmick, but I still didn’t get the “architectural drawing” until I had solved 26 Across, “1951 Oscar-winning film whose title suggests a visitor to the 118-Across” — AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. That pretty much gave away that 118 Across (“Landmark inaugurated 3/31/1889 whose shape is suggested by nine squares in this puzzle’s completed grid”) is EIFFEL TOWER.

At that point, you can pretty much figure the “ET” in the squeezed box stands for “Eiffel Tower,” and that there will be eight more you can “connect” to form a rudimentary Eiffel Tower shape. My favorite was the central clue, 74 Across, “Modern traveler’s purchase.” The answer — E-TICKET — required squeezing ET into both the first and last box. Pretty cool.

You’ll notice the date of the tower’s inauguration in 118 Across means it is celebrating its 120th birthday this year. Bon alors, joyeux anniversaire a la Tour Eiffel!

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

Closing the Deal

New York Times, March 22 (UPDATED)

When I first saw the title to this puzzle, I thought it would probably mean the theme answers had something extra added on to the end — thus “closing the deal.”

And as I started working my way through the clues, it seemed like the closing letters would even be the closing letters of the alphabet: X, Y and Z. I seemed to be finding them in theme-length answers, including PIZZERIA UNO (119 Across, “Classic name in chain restaurants) and EX-MARINES (23 Across, “Corps Veterans”) and YOM KIPPUR WAR (50 Across, “Conflict of 1973”). But they weren’t exactly closing any deals.

But I had my “A-ha!” moment as I filled in 27 Across, “Engagement gift”: DIAMOND SOLITAIRE. Not a ring, but a SOLITAIRE — a card game. All of a sudden the YOM KIPPUR WAR made sense, as did PIZZERIA UNO — both were favorite childhood card games. (And EX-MARINES wasn’t a theme answer after all.)

It didn’t take me long to close the rest of the “deals” after that.

UPDATE: The Times actually published a correction on a clue to this puzzle in the April 5 edition of the NYT Magazine. The clue for 57 Across, “Showcase Showdown prize, perhaps?” yielded the answer DINETTE SET. Cute, but as any veteran watcher of “The Price is Right” should know, the Showcase Showdown is the preliminary round where contestants spin the wheel and try to get closest to $1 in order to appear in the plain old Showcase — and win a dinette set.

I should have been hip to that, considering my college roommate was actually ON “The Price is Right” and won both the Showcase Showdown AND the Showcase. She did, indeed, win a dinette set if memory serves, along with a brass room divider and a satellite TV system (this was 1989, mind you).

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

Wedding No-Shows

Merl Reagle, March 29

The “No-Shows” in the title tells me something will be missing from these answers, but I didn’t expect to get so much help from the clues. Apparently thinking we needed hints, Merl helpfully put the dropped letter in parentheses after the clue.

So 22 Across, “Not -so-good news for a groom? (I),” the answer — THE BRIDE’S MAD — is missing an “I.” Restoring the “I” would give you a common wedding term, “The Bridesmaid.” Some of my favorites were 106 Across, “What German newlyweds do? (O)” — EXCHANGE VWS (Volkswagens) — and 122 Across, “What newlyweds might drive away in? (L)” — A LOVELY COUPE.

I liked 89 Across, “What to say  when the cheese finally arrives? (D)” — HERE COMES THE BRIE — even though no one really waits for the cheese to arrive at a wedding. Do they? And I’m pretty sure the central answer to 67 Across — YOUR AWFUL WEDDED WIFE — was a line by the sputtering, stuttering priest in “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”

Special shout-outs to Philly on 98 Across (“Phila. paper” — INQ, for the Inquirer) and 117 Down (“Erving’s nickname” — DR J); and I thought the clue for 119 Down, “Hitchcock film for short” was very clever for a standard crossword answer: NNW (“North by Northwest”).

Finally, 126 Across (“‘Madam, I’m Adam’ addressee) was a reference to one of my favorite types of wordplay, palindromes. The answer is the equally palindromic EVE.

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

On the Road Again

Merl Reagle, March 22

This is one of those puzzles where the same set of letters are added to a common phrase to create a cute theme answer. In this case, you’re actually adding the word “CAR” (thus the puzzle title, “On the Road Again”) to these phrases.

So 23 Across, “Sign outside a cheap hotel?” is SORRY NO CARPETS and 30 Across, “Comment about a kid who prefers the old ‘Tonight’ show?” is LIKE FATHER LIKE CARSON. Those are pretty clever.

But I was less impressed with CARLA CUCARACHA, the answer to 118 Across, “Most popular dance instructor in Mexico?” It seemed forced, as did SOME FRIENDS OF CARMINE, the answer to 103 Across, “Whom Vinny may be seeing tonight?”

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

Prioresses

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

Solving the Sunday NYT crossword puzzle so you don't have to.