Tag Archives: New York Times puzzle

I Heard You The First Time

New York Times crossword Feb. 10 / Constructed by Patrick Berry

What what? I couldn’t hear you the first time. Today’s puzzle was too easy, you say? Yes, yes, I’m afraid it was.

I suppose solvers are bound to feel let down after a challenging puzzle like “Black Cats,” and today’s simple theme definitely falls into that category. Its repetitive clues lead to phrases that repeat the leading word, like HUNGRY, HUNGRY HIPPOS (“Somewhat redundant Milton Bradley game?” 30 Across) and OFF-OFF BROADWAY SHOW (“Somewhat redundant theater production?” 100 Across), to name a couple.

Others: GREEN, GREEN GRASS OF HOME (“Somewhat redundant 1965 country song?” 22 Across); THE WILD, WILD WEST (“Somewhat redundant 1960s spy series?” 64 Across); SHORT, SHORT STORY (“Somewhat redundant literary genre?” 83 Across); EXTRA-EXTRA-LARGE (“Somewhat redundant size?” 49 Across); and the capper, IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (“Extremely redundant 1963 caper film?” 112 Across). It not only has one of the longest titles in Hollywood, it’s also one of the longest movies, period — 192 minutes. I tried to watch it once, “tried” being the key word.

Can You Repeat That? Dept.: Just in case you haven’t spent enough time in this echo chamber, “Human speech mimickers” are MYNAHS (9 Down).

Big Sigh Dept.: “MTV’s earliest viewers, mostly” were GEN X (31 Down). Yeah, that’s me. “Portlandia” had an awesome sketch recently featuring ’80s-era VJs Tabitha Soren, Kurt Loder and Matt Pinfield (OK, I don’t remember him at all) in which Gen X-ers try to take back the channel so that it actually plays music again.

Sweet Tooth Dept.: I don’t eat MALLOMARS, which is probably why I had no idea they are “Nabisco treats sold only seasonally” (79 Down). Marshmallows have a growing season?

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “Cheney’s follower” as vice president is BIDEN (103 Down), who happens to be coming to Philly tomorrow for a forum on gun violence. I’ll stretch this hometown category to include the well-known South Philly street ELLSWORTH (though in this grid it references the “South Dakota Air Force base,” 44 Down) and OWL (“Bedtime preyer?” 56 Across), the mascot of Temple University. Temple just joined UCONN (“Big East sch., 75 Down) in that athletic conference.

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.

A Whiff Of Cologne

New York Times crossword Feb. 3 / Constructed by Dan Schoenholz

Achtung! Today’s puzzle requires some dabbling in Deutsch, which is kind of funny considering I first thought the title hinted at a French phrase. “A Whiff Of Cologne” made me think of “eau de cologne,” which led me to wonder if the theme answers would contain an extra “O.”

I realized that theory was wrong after solving PUMPERNICKEL (“Alternative to white,” 21 Across) and KAFFEE KLATSCH (“Informal social gathering, 50 Down). But I still didn’t put it all together until I got the sneezy GESUNDHEIT (“It’s a blessing,” 30 Down). The title refers to Cologne, Germany — not perfume — and all the theme entries are German words that have made their way into English. (“Gesundheit,” by the way, actually means “health.”)

Others: BLITZKRIEG (“Forceful advance,” 46 Down), REALPOLITIK (“Practical approach to diplomacy,” 26 Down), POLTERGEIST (“Rapper?” 44 Down), KINDERGARTEN (“Low grade?” 102 Across) and BILDUNGSROMAN (“Novel that focuses on character growth,” 15 Down).

This might be where I mention that my mother speaks fluent German. Legend has it that she tried to teach it to me as a child, but I apparently rebuffed her when I realized none of my friends spoke it. Wonder if constructor Dan Schoenholz is of German heritage?

Speaking In Tongues Dept.: If German’s not your thing, the puzzle included a few other languages. “Sun, in Verdun” is SOLEIL (17 Across). “Division of a house” (though I can’t reproduce the accent over the “o” in “Division”) is SALA (6 Across). “Los ___ mosqueteros” is TRES (37 Down). And “Language related to Tahitian” is MAORI (98 Across). The word GREEK also appears, but only in reference to a “Fraternity member” (75 Across).

Wow, Really? Dept.: “Time’s second African-American Person of the Year” is OBAMA (85 Down). That made me curious about the first African-American to be given the title, so I looked it up: It was Martin Luther King Jr., who made the cover in 1964. (Obama has actually been named Person of the Year twice, in 2008 and last year.)

Doubled-Up Dept.: “Roosevelt’s successor” was used two times in succession, yielding TRUMAN (62 Across) and TAFT (64 Across). “Inexperienced” led to GREEN (30 Across) and NAIVE (51 Down).

Who Needs Football? Dept.: It’s Super Bowl Sunday, the last day of the NFL season. But since the Eagles were 4-12 this year, our season actually ended several weeks ago; Philadelphians have been focused more on Feb. 11, when pitchers and catchers begin reporting to spring training. Along those lines, “Diamond stat” is RBI (54 Across), while “Baseball commissioner Bud” is SELIG (92 Across).

Quick Wit Dept.: TWAIN said “Familiarity breeds contempt — and children” (36 Across).

Journalism Dept.: I only knew the name of this Alaska newspaper because one of my college roommates worked there for a while: “Fairbanks Daily News-___” MINER (70 Across).

For Fun Dept.: There were a lot of interesting, unusual entries in this puzzle. Among them: ARCHDUKE (“Noble rank,” 104 Across), RED DOT (“Mark of a rifle’s laser sight,” 88 Down), ACED IT (“Confident test-taker’s cry,” 39 Down), LOW RENT (“Cheap, as housing,” 83 Down), SPIRACLE (“Insect’s opening for air,” 80 Across) and BAR TABS (“They may be running in a saloon,” 10 Across).

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: It’s not Philly exactly, but it’s close enough. “‘Christina’s World’ painter Andrew” WYETH (20 Down) lived and worked in nearby Chadds Ford, where you can tour his studio and see much of his art at the Brandywine River Museum.

Need some solving tips and tricks? I’ve posted some here. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below. Or visit my Facebook page, or tweet me @crosswordkathy.

Solving Tips

Here are some hints and tricks for figuring out the wordplay in New York Times crossword puzzles. Clues used in this post come from actual NYT puzzles or Merl Reagle crosswords.

_ If the clue contains an abbreviation, the answer will be abbreviated. “Govt.-issued ID,” for example, yields the answer SSN, the shorthand for “Social Security number.” The clue “E.M.T. training” yields CPR. (An exception might be when the abbreviation is part of a military or police title: “Det. Bonasera on ‘CSI: NY'” is the full word STELLA, even though her title of “Detective” is shortened.)

_ Watch for plurals in a clue. “Soup kitchen needs” are LADLES, because there’s more than one “need.” Sometimes knowing an entry will end in “S” allows you to fill in its last square, perhaps  sparking the answer to a crossing word. Be wary, of course, of sneaky Latin plurals (say, RADII for the plural of RADIUS).

_ The tense of an answer stays consistent with tense of the clue tense. “Border on” is ABUT, while “Borders on” would be ABUTS.

_ Watch for consistency on a first-name basis. “Dottie in ‘A League of Their Own'” is GEENA, the first name of the actress who played the character Dottie Hinson. If the clue had said “Hinson in ‘A League of their Own,'” the answer would be DAVIS, Geena’s last name.

_ If the clue has a foreign word in it, so will the answer. “Members of la familia” are TIOS, the Spanish word for “uncles.”

_ Question marks always indicate the clue is a pun or play on words.

_ Beware of proper nouns masquerading as regular nouns, especially in a sports context. “Warriors’ grp.” refers not to an association for soldiers but to the NBA, the “group” to which the Golden State Warriors belong. “Giant in the field” is usually OTT, for Mel Ott, who played baseball for the New York Giants (before they moved to San Francisco). “Budget alternative” nearly always refers to Budget car rental, not a generic spending plan.

_ Clues that use words like “for openers” or “finish” indicate the answer is a prefix or suffix. “Ten, for openers” is DECA, the prefix indicating 10. “Friendly introduction?” is USER, for “user-friendly.” And “Meteor’s tail?” is the suffix OLOGY, for “meteorology.”

_ Know your Roman numerals: I=1, V=5, X=10, L=50, C=100, D=500, M=1,000. Putting a smaller number in front of a larger number means you’re subtracting it. So “Super Bowl XLVII” translates to “Super Bowl 47.”

_ Beware of pronunciation and homonyms. “Tumbler” is a type of glass but also an acrobat. “Sewer” is an urban drainage system as well as someone who sews things.

_ When I have a few letters of a down answer but am still stumped, I will re-write them Hangman-style on a piece of scratch paper, i.e. _RO_SW_R_. Sometimes seeing the letters spelled out horizontally makes it easier to supply the missing letters: CROSSWORD.

_ When I’m stumped by a single missing letter, I will mentally go through every letter of the alphabet until I find the one that fits. Seriously.

What tips would you offer? Have questions or comments? Leave them here, visit my Facebook page or tweet me @crosswordkathy.