Tag Archives: NYT puzzle

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.

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.

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.

Special Edition: Crossword Centenarian

My personal and professional worlds recently collided – in a good way! – when I got a chance to meet longtime crossword constructor Bernice Gordon. And when I say “longtime,” I mean she’s been creating puzzles for decades.  Bernice, in fact, just turned 100 years old last week and *still* builds a grid every day.

Bernice celebrated her milestone birthday in Philadelphia last Sunday with dozens of friends and relatives. I was lucky enough to score an invite, and luckier still to meet fellow party guest Will Shortz! Last Wednesday, Will published one of Bernice’s crosswords, making her the first centenarian to have a puzzle published in The New York Times.

Here are links to my story and the Wordplay blog post about Bernice’s accomplishments. Below is a companion video piece that I shot.

It’s Only ‘A’ Game

New York Times crossword puzzle Jan. 12 / Constructed by Andrew Chaikin

Warm(ish) greetings! I hope everyone has been able to put away their BALACLAVAS (“Warm mask/cap amalgams,” 108 Across) now that we’ve thawed out from the polar vortex.

Today’s straightforward puzzle is a break from the specialized designs of the past couple weeks. The title basically gives away the concept: The only vowel in the theme answers is “A.” Not terribly exciting, but as an added hint – or for some extra pizzazz – the theme’s italicized clues use only “A” for a vowel as well.

I figured it out right off the bat when I saw “M*A*S*H’ star” as the clue for 3 Down. Eight letters? Has to be the A-centric ALAN ALDA. From there, the answers flowed like magic: ABRACADABRA (“‘Shazam!’” 39 Down)!

Others: CASABLANCA (“Grand-slam drama that stars Bacall’s man,” 22 Across), FA-LA-LA-LA-LA (“Half an Xmas ‘Halls’ chant,” 24 Across), STAR WARS (“Astral saga that has a Darth part,” 38 Across) RASTAMAN (“Black cat that packs grass and chants ‘Jah’,” 87 Across) and MAGNA CARTA (“Landmark vassal law act,” 106 Across).

More: BAFTA AWARDS (“Gala that saw ‘Black Swan,’ ‘Avatar’ and ‘Ab Fab’ attract claps,” 36 Down), CATCH AS CATCH CAN (“Haphazard,” 28 Down), ANAGRAMS (“Flashback and halfbacks,” 81 Down), BLACK AND TAN (“Bar glass thas half Bass, half dark malt,” 37 Down) and SAND MANDALA (“Lama’s art that can’t last,” 38 Down).

And the main answer is the famous palindrome A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL: PANAMA (“Fab ‘backward-gram’ a la ‘Sam, aha! Bahamas!’” 63 Across).

Overall, an impressive number of theme answers and creative clue-writing, though not difficult to solve. If I was grading this puzzle, I’d give it an easy A.

Tripped Up Dept.: I have a very messy entry at 89 Down, where I stumbled twice trying to answer the related clue “TV/movie group associated with this puzzle’s theme?” First I entered ASCAP , an all-A answer that stands for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Then I realized that union is for music, not TV and movies, so I entered AFTRA, for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Then I realized that doesn’t include movies (though I guess it could, since it merged with the Screen Actors Guild to form SAG-AFTRA). Maybe the answer was  AMPAS, for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? As in, “I’d like to thank the Academy”? That includes movies on TV channels like HBO, right?

I finally realized the answer they’re looking for is the A-TEAM, which of course has an E in it. Arggghhh! Speaking of the Oscars, its cousin the Golden Globes are on tonight. They’re given out by the HFPA, an A-only abbreviation that stands for Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Only One Goes With Coffee Dept.: “Apple product” is both an IMAC (93 Down) and an IPAD (69 Across); the latter is a TABLET (“69-Across, e.g.,” 34 Across). But an “Apple product, perhaps” is a STRUDEL (33 Down).

Famous Offspring Dept.: “Picasso’s designer daughter” is PALOMA (13 Down), while “Designer McCartney” is STELLA (41 Down), daughter of Beatle Paul.

Before My Time Dept.: Through crossing answers, I got EST for “’70s self-help course” at 72 Down. What does that mean?

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.

Clued In

New York Times crossword puzzle Jan. 5 / Constructed by Alan DerKazarian

Holy cow! There’s been a murder in the New York Times crossword puzzle. Hope you remember how to play the classic board game Clue – otherwise you’ll never figure out this whodunnit.

The genius of this puzzle starts with the title, an obvious reference to the game in which players try to solve a murder. (Apparently there are several versions out now – including one that takes place on a boardwalk!) The four quadrants in the crossword – normally a violation of constructing rules – are a loose representation of the Clue board’s room layout (library, conservatory, kitchen, etc).

There's been a murder in the New York Times crossword puzzle! (Click to enlarge.)

There’s been a murder in the New York Times crossword puzzle! (Click to enlarge.)

The mystery is unraveled by finishing the smaller crosswords and linking their shaded entries to discover the SUSPECT, ROOM and WEAPON.

I started solving in the upper left quadrant, where the three shaded answers are pretty straightforward: TANAGER (“Colorful bird,” 70 Across), LETTER (“Varsity award,” 44 Across) and FEVER (“Pyrexia,” 40 Across).

I have to say I was thisclose to entering PEACOCK for TANAGER, since the fusty Mrs. Peacock is a character in Clue. But there were enough conflicting crossing letters to make me hesitate. When I got all three entries, the link was clearly the word SCARLET – scarlet fever, scarlet letter, scarlet tanager. And Miss Scarlet is the game’s sexy single gal – so I entered that at 1 Across (“The ‘who’ of a Clue accusation, whose identity is hinted at by the three shaded answers in this quadrant.”)

Oops. Turns out I was jumping ahead. As you can see from my messy entry, I had to correct it to the more generic SUSPECT. (But Miss Scarlet *would* make her appearance later.) Still, that made it easy to fill in ROOM at 11 Across (“The ‘where’ of a Clue accusation …”) and WEAPON at 73 Across (“The ‘what’ of a Clue accusation …”).

The three shaded answers in the upper right puzzle hinted that the killing took place in the LOUNGE: RELAX (“‘Cool it!’” 18 Down), IDLE (“Lay off,” 64 Across) and REST (“Musical notation,” 55 Across). The three hints to the murder weapon were REPO (“2010 film ‘___ Men’,” 141 Across), PORE (“Opening for a dermatologist?” 94 Across) and OPER (“Phone abbr.” 123 Across) – all anagrams of the word ROPE.

So by the time I got to the fourth quadrant, I was ready with my accusation: MISS SCARLET (99 Across)  … IN THE LOUNGE (113 Across) … WITH THE ROPE (135 Across).

Clever, clever, clever! Really fun. What did you think?

Confessions Dept.: I solved the fourth quadrant second because I couldn’t wait to find out the answer! Don’t tell the puzzle police.

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “React to a loss” is GRIEVE (81 Down), which is what Eagles fans are doing today. Despite a few pretty good DEFENSIVE (“Like some football teams,” 106 Across) plays, we literally got kicked out of the playoffs by a New Orleans field goal last night.

New To Me Dept.: I learned a few terms in this puzzle, including ISTLE (“Basket fiber,” 47 Down), AKELA (“Cub Scouts leader,” 19 Down) and SCALAR (“Having no direction, in math,” 109 Down). Also was not familiar with Tony OLIVA (“Tony the Twin,” 12 Across), apparently a longtime player for Minnesota’s baseball team.

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.