Jump to: Tricky Clues | Today’s Theme
SUNDAY PUZZLE — Will Shortz, in his print introduction to this grid, writes: “Michael Schlossberg is an internist in Bend, Ore., who’s been making crosswords for The Times since 2020. He got the idea for this one after seeing 68-Across as a title at his local bookstore. Although themeless puzzles are Mike’s favorites to solve, he says he doesn’t construct them ‘because I get decision paralysis — they’re too much of a blank canvas. I need to have a theme set to build around.’”
Mr. Schlossberg is a maven of ridiculous puns — you might remember “Fresh pair of loafers?” in a Sunday puzzle from last July, which solved to BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD. He’s also an excellent grid mechanic, adept at constructions that tuck letters and words into larger entries to help make a theme. This puzzle manifests both of those skills and makes for a witty, somewhat tricky solve.
A lot of the theme comes in pairs and quartets today: There are four pairs of duplicate theme clues at 23-/24-, 42-/46-, 91-/95- and 117-/119-Across, for starters. The two corresponding theme entries for each pair of clues occupy a full row in the grid; you will notice that the second entry contains a series of gray boxes. There’s also a revealer at 68-Across that makes a perfect punchline and is offered as an alternative to “Gimme a Second,” the puzzle’s title.
Those two entries are unrelated, but both work as solutions for the same clue. For example, the clue for 23-/24-Across is “It might be pressed before work.” 23-Across solves to POWER SUIT, a garment with padded shoulders to signify strength that has to be unwrinkled for full effect; 24-Across, however, solves to SNOOZE ALARM, something “pressed” by those of us who embrace sloth and dishevelment. The run of gray squares in SNOOZE ALARM gives us ZEAL.
The clue at 117-/119-Across is “Target of many a viral marketing campaign,” which first solves to GENERATION Z, at 117-Across. (Why do advertisers target kids? I ask myself, and then I learn that the oldest “zoomers” are almost 30 and I transform into a heap of dust.) At 119-Across, though, the answer for a “Viral marketing campaign” is FLU STRAIN. Get it? Good one, and it took me a second, especially because of the way the gray boxes appear in the entry. “FLUSTRAIN” contains LUST, and for some reason I read “flust rain” for the longest time.
ZEAL and LUST join two other emotions, hidden in 46-Across and 95-Across, to make a foursome of strong emotions, each in the second example of a pair of entries. This is what “Gimme a Second” refers to, but these hidden words are more clearly explained by that revealer at 68-Across. “Bandleader’s urging … or an alternative title for this puzzle” solves to ONCE MORE WITH FEELING.
83A. Bring this one back!, I thought, when I figured out this entry; “Snooty” solves to UPPISH, which is an old expression that I can’t recall ever seeing. I think it’s been replaced in common conversation by uppity, though, which I find more fun to say. Use UPPISH as you wish.
2D. The term named in this clue (“Petrichor, n.: The pleasant _____ of rainfall on dry soil”) was coined by scientists in the 1960s and means “blood of the soil.” The AROMA they described came from plant life and bacteria in the soil, and it’s nice enough that people pay to wear it.
62D. The “Dakota tribe” in question here is the ARIKARA, who split from the Pawnee and moved northward along the Missouri River. This entry has made a few appearances in the crossword, most recently in 2018.
92D. There’s a cute etymological touch to this clue and entry. The “Plant that may be mistaken for a dandelion” in question is a CATS EAR. Its basal leaves are hirsute, covered in fine hairs that might resemble those on a kitty’s noggin. That’s a contrast with the jagged appearance of a plant named for the “tooth of a lion” in French.
Happy New Year! Pretty straightforward gimmick today: A duplicate clues/hidden word combo. Constructionwise, I looked for entries that would let me squeeze all of the theme material into five lines. I like this kind of layout, because it accommodates 100 theme letters, give or take, while also opening up the grid for a lot of bonus fill. I thought about using the title “I Second That (Emotion),” but I figured this might give the game away. I hope everyone enjoyed today’s puzzle!
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