Tag Archives: NYT crossword

Musical Interpretation

New York Times crossword puzzle March 30 / Constructed by Peter A. Collins

You don’t need to know much about music to interpret today’s puzzle. But it does help to be familiar with classic rock and have a creative sense of wordplay: The theme answers consist of literally rendered song titles.

The trickery became clear early on after crossing words left me with  _MOK_  at 37 Across. I knew from the clue (“With 43-Across, 1973 Deep Purple hit?”) that the song was “Smoke on the Water,” but there weren’t enough spaces. That meant the “on” had to be implied: SMOKE literally sits “on” THE WATER, which is entered directly below at 43 Across.

Song titles get literal interpretations in this grid. (Click to enlarge.)

Song titles get literal interpretations in this grid. (Click to enlarge.)

Others: STAND / YOUR MAN, for “Stand by Your Man” (With 89-Down, 1968 Tammy Wynette hit?”, 95 Down); TIME TIME, for “Time After Time” (“1984 Cyndi Lauper hit?” 78 Across); and R-O-C-K / THE CLOCK, for “Rock Around the Clock,” where ROCK are the circled letters surrounding THE CLOCK (“With the circled letters, 1955 Bill Haley and His Comets hit?” 28 Across). Speaking of which, the label for that song was DECCA (22 Down).

The trickiest ones: NOOMDAB at 90 Down, for “Bad Moon Rising” (“1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival hit?”) – the BAD MOON “rises” from bottom to top; and LOATEENAGERVE at 66 Across, for “A Teenager in Love” (“1959 Dion and the Belmonts hit?”). The words A TEENAGER are literally placed “in” the word LOVE.

So, what did you think? Not bad. But here’s the place where I reiterate my longstanding complaint about music references being too old – nearly 60 years for “Rock Around the Clock”! – and I repeat my (so far empty) vow to create a similar puzzle with modern tunes. Although perhaps a Miley Cyrus reference was implied by the presence of TWERK at 7 Down (“Back it up, in a way”)? Yikes!

For Fun Dept.: There was lots of good fill in this grid, including TOO CAREFUL (“What fastidious people can’t be,” 16 Down), IN BAD SHAPE (“Suffering,” 3 Down), DICK AND JANE (“Primer pair,” 116 Across), SUBSISTENCE (“Kind of farming,” 23 Across), SGT. BILKO (“NCO of 1950s TV,” 65 Down) and – holy cow! – EMPIRICIST (“John Locke, philosophically,” 70 Down).

Haha Dept.: There were some really punny jokes, too. “Where to find screwdrivers and rusty nails” are BARROOMS (109 Across); “Rubber from Arabia?” is ALADDIN (93 Down); “Slanted writing” are EDITORIALS (75 Down); and “Runners in the cold?” are NOSES (125 Across).

Ouch! Dept.: “Memorable series in ‘Psycho’” are STABS (79 Across).

Learn Something New Every Day Dept.: From crossing words, I figured out that “The ‘T’ of Mr. T” stands for TERO (43 Down). Various biographies indicate he was born Lawrence Tureaud, which I’m guessing is a hard-to-pronounce French surname that some family members (including him) changed to its phonetic pronunciation, TERO. I also didn’t know that TARS is another word for “deck hands” (“Hands on deck,” 61 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.

Bright Ideas

New York Times crossword puzzle March 23 / Constructed by Ian Livengood

Love getting that “Aha!” moment when solving crosswords? You’ll get at least two of them today while working on this self-referential puzzle about THOMAS EDISON (86 Across).

You have to deduce the subject from crossing letters, or from the three-part witticism entered at 23-, 29- and 43 Across: I HAVE NOT FAILED, I’VE JUST FOUND TEN THOUSAND WAYS THAT WON’T WORK (” … motivational comment attributed to 86-Across”).

Circled letters in the grid symbolize an inventor's bright idea. (Click to enlarge.)

Circled letters in the grid symbolize an inventor’s bright idea. (Click to enlarge.)

Known as THE WIZARD OF MENLO PARK (96 Across) – the New Jersey town where he had a laboratory – Edison is known for inventing the INCANDESCENT LIGHT BULB (106 Across). Constructor Ian Livengood has cleverly hidden one in the grid, which you get by connecting the circled letters. An editor’s note indicates the letters, when read counterclockwise from the top, spell out “a phrase relating to the puzzle’s theme”: AHA MOMENT.

It’s a well done puzzle, although I’m wondering what the peg is … an anniversary of some type? Perhaps it’s a eulogy, considering that Edison’s signature achievement is being phased out of production in the U.S. – the bulbs no longer meet federal energy-efficiency standards.

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “Dolph of ‘Rocky IV’” is LUNDGREN (116 Across). Our city’s favorite fictional son just debuted on Broadway last week. Philly tourism officials hope the musical “Rocky” will convince theater-goers to travel down I-95 (or hop Amtrak) to see the sights that inspired the story.

Sports Section Dept. “United Center team” are the CHICAGO BULLS (12 Down), while “Five-time Super Bowl champions, informally” are THE NINERS (47 Down). The 49ers don’t play in the NFC SOUTH, but New Orleans does (“Saint’s home, for short,” 19 Across).

For Fun Dept.: Unusual entries in the puzzle include DNA MOLECULE (“Bit of a code,” 3 Down), SESAME BAGELS (“Deli stock with seeds,” 60 Down) and OPEN CIRCUIT (“What an electric current does not flow through,” 67 Down).

Cruel Joke Dept.: As this unending winter continues into spring – with more snow possible on Tuesday – there is not a TAN LINE to be found around here (“Sunbathing evidence,” 90 Down).

Doubled-Up Dept.: “D.C. mover” at 101 Down is the METRO, while the “D.C. mover and shaker: Abbr.” at 119 Across is a SEN(ator).

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.

It’s Better This Way

New York Times crossword puzzle March 16 / Constructed by Jeremy Newton

How do you get from SICK to WELL? By going to the doctor. Or by taking the sage advice of today’s puzzle: FOLLOWING THE PRESCRIPTION (“With 58-Down, a patient process? … or a hint to two consecutive letters in the answer to each of the seven starred clues,” 16 Down).

This clever crossword takes you through the healing process, starting with getting SICK in the upper left corner and then moving diagonally through a medicinal path to WELL in the lower right. SICK comes from the circled letters in SICK OF (“So over,” 1 Across), while WELL is from DO WELL (“Thrive, 119 Across).

This puzzle shows the path to wellness.

This puzzle shows the path to wellness. (Click to enlarge.)

The medicine, of course, is symbolized by the RX in each of the theme answers – RX being the abbreviation for “prescription.” The first is found in XERXES I OF PERSIA (“*He bested Leonidas at Thermopylae,” 23 Across), followed by FOUR-X-FOUR (“*Off-roader, often,” 31 Across).

Continuing to follow the prescription, you’ll find THE WINTER X GAMES (“*Annual draw for snocross fans,” 49 Across), GROUCHO MARX MUSTACHE (“*Iconic feature of comedy,” 65 Across), PROFESSOR XAVIER (“*Founder of Marvel’s School for Gifted Youngsters,” 79 Across), SOLVE FOR X (“*Frequent problem faced by algebra students,” 97 Across) and RETURN OF DOCTOR X (“*Horror flick starring Humphrey Bogart as a mad scientist, with ‘The’,” 108 Across). What a bizarre role for Bogey!

Silver Screen Dept.: Speaking of movies, “Clueless” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary” are ROM-COMS (40 Down). “Loud beast heard in theaters” is the MGM LION (57 Down), which nearly stumped me and was one of the last answers I filled in. And Xerxes is back in theaters now with “300: Rise of an Empire.” It’s the sequel to the stylized 2006 film “300,” which tells the story of Leonidas’ Spartans and their battle against the Persian king who considered himself a god.

Corner Drugstore Dept.: By the way, my first instinct when I get sick is to buy something OTC (“Like Advil or Aleve: Abbr.” 54 Across).

For Fun Dept.: Unusual entries in the grid include EAST-WEST (“How lines of latitude run,” 21 Down),  ADAM’S ALE (“Water, wryly,” 115 Across), RESCUE ME (“1965 R&B #1 song with the repeated lyric “Can’t you see that I’m lonely?’” 20 Across), THING IS (“‘That may be true, but …’” 55 Across) and HOT WAX (“Hair-razing stuff?” 56 Down)

New To Me Dept.: Apparently an L-BAR is a “Bent beam” (76 Across), which I got from crossing words. It’s also known as an angle iron.

Ugh Dept.: The other entry that took me forever to get was RSTU (“They’re 18 to 21,” 73 Down). The numbers refer to the letters’ places in the alphabet.

Shameless Promotion Dept.: Some of you may know that I am an aspiring constructor … and I’m thrilled to report my first puzzle was published this week in Games magazine! Still aiming to impress Will and get a grid printed in the NYT, of course, but one step at a time. Thanks to everyone for the supportive comments and “likes” on my Facebook page!

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: Today’s shout-out goes to my fellow Philadelphians as we brace for yet another snowfall tonight. Amid this never-ending winter, here’s a badly needed laugh featuring Groucho Marx and his mustache in “Duck Soup.”

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.

Nosy Nonsense

New York Times crossword puzzle March 9 / Constructed by Brendan Emmett Quigley

Between my jet lag coming back to Philly and the jump ahead to Daylight Saving Time, I’m operating four hours behind schedule and my brain is somewhat addled. Luckily, today’s puzzle was easy-peasy.

The theme answers add a “zee” sound to common phrases, as evidenced in the title: “Nosy Nonsense.” So a “Marvel from Idaho’s largest city?” is a BOISE WONDER (103 Across), while a “Picky little dog?” is a CHOOSY TOY (28 Across), from chew toy.

Others: “Business transactions free from government regulation?” are EASY COMMERCE (52 Across), for e-commerce. A “Barely remembered seaman?” is a HAZY SAILOR (36 Down). The “Sports score most likely to be on the highlight reel?” is a DOOZY POINT (44 Down). A “Carefree dairy product?” is BREEZY CHEESE (73 Across). “Optimistic theater audience?” is a ROSY HOUSE (101 Across). And “One unsatisfied with a ‘She loves me, she loves me not’ result?” is a DAISY TRADER (26 Across).

City of Brotherly Love Dept.: I’ll give a Philly shout-out to the aforementioned ROSY HOUSE, which comes from “row house,” which is what our fair city is filled with. Also will note the upcoming start of March Madness, otherwise known as the annual office bracket-guessing contest sponsored by NCAA (“Certain tourney overseer,” 105 Down). The Philly-area Villanova Wildcats may be one of the higher seeds this year.

City of Angels Dept.: Having just returned from a weeklong visit to my other hometown (Los Angeles), I’ll point out that a “College up the coast from L.A.” is UCSB (102 Down), for the University of California at Santa Barbara. And a “CBS series that, oddly, was filmed in L.A.” was CSI: NY (53 Down).

New To Me Dept.:  Was not familiar with STEPTOE (“Isolated hill surrounded by lava,” 8 Across) or EUROMART (“Continental free trade group,” 86 Across), both of which I got from crossing words.

Product Placement Dept.: You’ll find both ISOTONER (“Brand of gloves and slippers,” 84 Down) and DENTYNE (“Orbit rival,” 67 Across) in the grid.

You’ve Got To Be Kidding Dept.: MAZY is a word? As in maze-like? Seriously? Apparently it’s a synonym for “Labyrinthine” (66 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.

It Was 50 Years Ago Today

New York Times crossword puzzle Feb. 9 / Constructed by Charles M. Deber

Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!

That’s the only way I know how to scream in text. And no other sound better represents BEATLEMANIA (“Craze caused by this puzzle’s subjects,” 3 Down) than a good ear-splitting shriek.

Yes, today’s fun and nostalgic crossword refers to THE FAB FOUR (“Nickname for this puzzle’s subjects,” 14 Down), who made their U.S. debut a half-century ago when they appeared on “The ED SULLIVAN Show” (“Host for this puzzle’s subjects on 2/9/64,” 6 Down).

The New York Times has succumbed to Beatlemania. (Click to enlarge.)

The New York Times has succumbed to Beatlemania. (Click to enlarge.)

The fill includes lots of Beatles references, from their hometown of LIVERPOOL (81 Down) to the songs they played on Sullivan’s show: SHE LOVES YOU (17 Down) and YESTERDAY (83 Down). There are also a few snippets of lyrics in there, like “When I WAS younger, so much younger …” (from “Help!”, 74 Across) and “Why AM I so shy when …” (from “It’s Only Love”, 86 Across) – not to mention “Let IT BE” (42 Across). The clues also note the band played at SHEA stadium (107 Down) in 1965 and 1966. And of course their biggest audience was TEENAGERS (70 Across).

The grid’s centerpiece is the snake of gray squares that depicts a GUITAR (102 Down). The Beatles’ names cleverly form the outline of this long and winding road: PAUL MCCARTNEY and JOHN LENNON appear at 9 Down and RINGO STARR and GEORGE HARRISON join them on the other side, beginning at 11 Down.

Pretty creative, I thought. What did you think?

Memory Lane Dept.: It’s pretty trippy to read these re-released stories about the Beatles from the Associated Press. Written during the group’s U.S. invasion, an introduction to the articles notes: “In covering the airport arrival, AP reporter Arthur Everett goes to great lengths to use contemporary slang like ‘way out’ and ‘fab.’”

Say What? Dept.: I’ve never heard anyone use the word LOLLOP (“Move in an ungainly way,” 32 Across). Also was not familiar with the town of TROYES (“City on the Seine upstream from Paris,” 127 Across).

Cheesy Dept.: “Houston sch.” is RICE U, short for Rice University, an entry that surely got the constructor out of a jam. And WYES (which I initially entered as WHYS) is one way to phonetically spell the plural of the penultimate letter of the alphabet (“Followers of exes,” 62 Across).

Doubled-Up Dept.: “Apes” are both OAFS (79 Down) and IMITATORS (80 Down). And a “Medical suffix” is both OMA (118 Down) and OSIS (115 Down).

UPDATE: Lonely Hearts Club Dept.: Many thanks to my husband – a major fan of the Beatles, if not crosswords – who pointed out the puzzle title’s reference to the lyrics of “Sgt. Pepper …” : “It was 20 years ago today …”

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.

Toil And Trouble

New York Times crossword puzzle Feb. 2 / Constructed by Dick Shlakman and Jeff Chen

Happy birthday, Shakespeare! Yes, it is a landmark year for The Bard, who was born 450 years ago come April. Today, he got an early present from The New York Times: a crossword dedicated to “Macbeth.” 

The first hint was the title, which comes from a line spoken by the play’s three witches: “Double, double toil and trouble / Fire burn, and caldron bubble.”

But there’s little else to go on until you solve the five longest entries in the puzzle:  WHAT’S DONE IS DONE (“Tautological statement of finality,” 37 Down); MILK OF HUMAN KINDNESS (“Compassion, figuratively,” 21 Down); ONE FELL SWOOP (“A single stroke,” 58 Down); A CHARMED LIFE (“What the lucky person leads,” 60 Down); and KNOCK KNOCK WHO’S THERE (“Start of many jokes,” 23 Down).

Is this a dagger which I see before me? (Click to enlarge.)

Is this a dagger which I see before me? (Click to enlarge.)

It would seem a random collection of common phrases until you get to 42 Down, which tells you they all have a single source: THE SCOTTISH PLAY (“Superstitious thespian’s name for a work of Shakespeare …”). Then you look at the circled letters in the center of the grid and you realize they spell He Who Must Not Be Named: MACBETH. (It’s considered bad luck to speak the word during any production of the tragedy.)

So far, so good. Then I came to the clue for 100 Down, “Drippings appropriately positioned under the circled letters.” I solved the answer easily enough – BLOOD – but I couldn’t understand the visuals. I started looking for individual “drops” of the red stuff under each circled letter. Yet that wasn’t making sense … there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the squares directly under the circled letters. Then I tried connecting the circled letters in order and ended up with a weird, elongated “S” shape. Huh?

So I went straight to the source, the site run by co-constructor Jeff Chen. It seems I was thinking too hard – the simple cross shape in which the circled letters are laid out symbolizes the hilt and blade of a dagger (“Is this a dagger which I see before me?”); the tip of the weapon is dripping the aforementioned BLOOD. I guess my mistake was looking for drops under *all* the circled letters; this blood technically appears under the M, C, E, T and H, but not A and B.

Anyway … it was a pretty clever concept, despite my confusion. What did you think?

Philly Shout-Out #1 Dept.: Unfortunately, it’s too late to see the Broadway version of “Macbeth” starring Alan Cumming, which closed last summer. But birthday celebrations in Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon take place in April, and Philadelphia’s main library has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bard” because of the 450 milestone. It has a rare First Folio on display and is planning many other celebratory events.

Philly Shout-Out #2 Dept.: At the other end of the cultural spectrum is the puzzle’s reference to our city’s famous fictional boxer: YOS  are “Rocky shout-outs” (124 Across).

How Did I Not Know This? Dept.: The heartthrob group of my early teens, DURAN DURAN, is apparently “named after the villain in ‘Barbarella’” (26 Across). Never saw the movie, but I’m not exactly its target demographic. (The film villain is spelled Durand-Durand.)

Haha Dept.: “Army threats?” are OCTOPI (49 Down), meaning it’s a threat with a lot of arms. (“Arm”-y … get it? Took me a while, too.) Along those lines, “One for the money?” is UNUM (12 Across), as in “e pluribus unum,” the phrase on our currency.

Fun Phrase Dept.: There were lots of colorful entries, including IN A KNOT (“Tangled,” 47 Across), IONE SKYE (“John Cusack’s co-star in ‘Say Anything…’,” 80 Across), POLO SHIRT (“Lacoste offering,” 29 Across), TOODLE-OO (“‘Ta-ta!’” 110 Across), BANDOLERO (“Sinister señor,” 28 Across) and ICE HOLES (“Places where polar bears fish,” 113 Across).

Repeat That? Dept.: The puzzle seems to incorporate every possible combination of the letters H, O and U: OHO (“Palindromic cry,” 111 Down), OOH (“‘Lo-o-ovely!’” 103 Down), UH HUH (“‘Yep’,” 12 Down) and UH OH (“‘Don’t look now…’,” 57 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.

It’s All Relative

New York Times crossword puzzle Jan. 26 / Constructed by Daniel A. Finan

It took me forever to get this theme. I think I was so absorbed in the self-referential aspect of the clues – my eyes darting all over the puzzle to connect various “relative” answers – that I didn’t realize all the paired entries were directly under one another (or over one another), depending how you look at it.

And how you look at it was the key: The theme answers are literal references to the entries’  positions. It clicked when I finally realized that SHELTERED (“14-Down, relatively,” 82 Down) was directly below the phrase LOCK AND KEY (“See 82-Down”). So SHELTERED – “relatively” speaking – means “under” LOCK AND KEY. The “under” is implied by its location in the grid.

The positions of some answers are key to solving the theme. (Click to enlarge.)

The positions of some answers are key to solving the theme. (Click to enlarge.)

Others: BEWITCHED is literally “under” A SPELL (51- and 3 Down); NO WAY JOSE is “over” MY DEAD BODY (6- and 73 Down); FEELING THE HEAT is “under” THE GUN (52- and 8 Down); TALK TO YOU LATER is “over” AND OUT (12- and 93 Down); and EXCESSIVE is “over” THE TOP (42- and 95 Down).

Usually when it takes me that long to solve the theme, it feels rewarding to get that a-ha! moment. Today, I just felt like dope-slapping my forehead. What did you think?

Confessions Dept.: When I first saw the title and “relative” clues, I thought the crossword would involve definitions of family members – e.g. one answer might be UNCLE, with the connected “relative” answer being MOTHER’S BROTHER, or something like that. I guess there are too many possible correct answers for that to work, now that I think about it.

Famous First Names Dept.: RUDYARD (“Writer Kipling,” 47 Across); AMBROSE (“Cynic Bierce who once defined ‘alone’ as ‘in bad company’,” 49 Across);  LANA (“Pop singer Del Rey,” 66 Across); and NADINE (“Title girl in a Chuck Berry hit,” 98 Across). Speaking of Berry, the 87-year-old rocker performed his 200th show this month at the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill in St. Louis.

Famous Last Names Dept.: KENNEDY (“Powell’s successor on the Supreme Court,” 116 Across); RETTON (“Gold-medal gymnast Mary Lou,” 114 Across); GRIER (“Pam of ‘Jackie Brown’,” 85 Across); and ESTEVEZ (Martin Sheen’s real family name,” 81 Across). 

Famous Full Names (or Famous Eds) Dept.: MR. ED (“He ‘will never speak unless he has something to say,’ in a song,” 50 Down) and ED WOOD (“Movie director who was himself the subject of a 1994 movie,” 112 Across).

Sandy Beaches Dept.: As I once again clean up the salt and snow tracked into my house – and bundle up in six layers to go out into sub-freezing temperatures – I’m doing my best to think warm thoughts. Three hammock-related clues helped: “Rest in a hammock, say” is LOLL (46 Down); “Rested in a hammock, say” is LAZED (66 Down); and “In a hammock, maybe” is IDLE (105 Down). Am I counting down the days to summer? YOU BETCHA (“‘Yessiree!’” 28 Down).

He’s A Gas Dept.: I rolled my eyes when I finally got “He’s 2, for one” (49 Down). In this case “He” is the abbreviation for the element helium, and 2 is its AT NO, short for atomic number. As you can see from my messy grid, I had AT_ _ and filled in A TOT, thinking a 2-year-old would qualify as such. I thought it was a cheesy answer, but couldn’t for the life of me figure out what else it might be. I got it after puzzling out some unfamiliar crossing words, including NEWEL (“Stairway post,” 59 Across) and ODI (Latin for “I hate,” 64 Across). Constructors often drop AMO (Latin for “I love”) into crosswords – usually when they’re stuck – but I have to say I’ve never seen ODI. I suppose that prefix is where words like “odious” come from.

Say What? Dept.: Through crossing words, I got ELOGE for “Funeral delivery of old” (99 Down), making me wonder if it was an old-time spelling of ELEGY. I looked it up and found it labeled “archaic” – I second that! – and more closely aligned with “eulogy.” Also … TREELET? As in little tree? As in “Sapling” (55 Across)? Ugh.

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.