Happy 76th birthday to the New York Times crossword puzzle. To echo what a friend of mine said the other day: It’s hard to believe what a huge impact a grid of white and black squares has had on millions of people’s lives. I’m especially grateful for all of the people I’ve met who enjoy filling out those squares as much as I do.

Eight one-word musicals have been spelled upward in familiar phrases running Down in the grid:

  • 3D: [“Well, I never!”] is WHAT NERVE, which hides Rent backward.
  • 5D: [Former NHL team that relocated to Colorado in 1995] is QUEBEC NORDIQUES, which hides Once backward.
  • 11D: [Bandleader Pérez Prado’s sobriquet] is KING OF THE MAMBO, which hides Mame backward.
  • 16D: [Some Firestone products] is RADIAL TIRES, which hides Aida backward.
  • 48D: [Modifiers of nouns] is RELATIVE CLAUSES, which hides Evita backward.
  • 53D: [Multinational state that dissolved at the end of World War I] is AUSTRIAHUNGARY, which hides Hair backward. You might even say it “splits” Hair backward. But I wouldn’t say that. Never.
  • 70D: [Domestic employee who resides at the place of employment] is LIVEIN NANNY, which hides Annie backward.
  • 85D: [Honor for Crowe or Finch] is BEST ACTOR, which hides Cats backward.

Some other one-word musicals I didn’t include: Nine, which is hidden in numerous phrases like WHEN IN ROME and OPEN INVITATION; Chess, which is hidden backward in MANASSEH CUTLER (a 19th-century representative in the U.S. House and a co-founder of Ohio State University); and Oliver, which is hidden backward in BREVILOQUENT (a fancy and ironically not-brief way of saying “brevity of speaking”).

A few other clues of note:

  • 95A: [Comedian Kondabolu who starred in the documentary “The Problem With Apu”] is HARI Kondabolu. I think he’s a good alternative to various Mata Hari clues, and this longtime fan of “The Simpsons” can confirm that the documentary is quite good. You can watch it on TruTV’s website.
  • 98A: [Deep space?] is SEA. My favorite clue this week.
  • 109A: [“A Wrinkle in Time” director DuVernay] is AVA DuVernay. A clue that looks into the future! The movie opens on March 9.
  • 56D: [Movie star Dianne who turns into movie star Mae when I ain’t there?] is WIEST, whose name becomes WEST when you remove the I. That’s a long-winded clue to get to a joke, but I got a bit worried about the crossing with HOWE at 54A: [Red Wings great Gordie] if you didn’t know who Dianne Wiest or Gordie Howe was (to be fair, though, Wiest is a two-time Oscar winner, so she’s more than fair game for a puzzle).
  • 87D: [Source of fake news] is LIAR. Actually, I lied. This is my favorite clue this week.

Heads-up: Next week’s crossword has a metapuzzle. Good luck!