Author: Jim Hyres
Theme: Four phrases each have one of the compass points (N, S, E, and W) inserted to make a new phrase. The compass points are positioned appropriately in the grid, which also features a cross in the center making it look more "compass-like". In case you didn't notice, the grid is also symmetric along both diagonals, which means it has the same pattern no matter how you rotate it.
Here are the theme answers:
- In the north: Net assets + N = NET ASSENTS (17a: Nods from a New Jersey hoopster?). Not bad.
- In the south: Peter Nero + S = PESTER NERO (57a: Badger a Roman emperor?). This was pretty easy even not knowing who Peter Nero is. Turns out he's a pianist and conductor, currently with the Philly Pops. But you probably already knew that.
- In the east: Panama hat + E = PANAMA HEAT (11d: Canal cops?). My favorite of the theme answers.
- In the west: Panhandle + W = PAWNHANDLE (28d: Make an en passant move?). En passant is a chess move. A pawn can, on its first move, go forward one or two spaces. If it moves two spaces to land directly beside an opposing pawn, that opposing pawn can, on its next turn only, capture it as if it had only moved one square (pawns attack diagonally forward). This capture is called en passant (in passing).
This is a cool theme for a Tuesday. I'm a sucker for nice symmetry, so I liked this grid layout a lot. But what really struck me was how enjoyable the rest of the fill was, especially for an early-week puzzle. Let's check it out.
- 16a: Bruce Lee TV role (KATO). Bruce Lee once said that he was selected for this role in "The Green Hornet" because he was the only Asian actor who could correctly pronounce "Britt Reid". I had a brain short-circuit and entered KANE at first but that, of course, was David Carradine.
- 20a: Hiker's snack (TRAIL MIX). I was expecting the answer to be GORP, but TRAIL MIX is just as good, with an X to boot.
- 25a: Red state declaration? (I'M MAD). Nice political diversion here.
- 29a: Plant containers (TERRARIA). For the number of common letters in this word, you'd think you'd see it more often in puzzles, but I can't recall seeing it all recently.
- 33a: Wreck (SMASH UP). As opposed to BANG-UP, which can mean excellent (or impregnate). Language can be so cool.
- 36a: Boy in "The Jungle Book" (MOWGLI). The Disney version of this was one of the most-watched videos in our household when the kids were young, so this was a no-brainer for me. And it's such a great-looking fill.
- 50a: Line dances with kicking (CONGAS). Stay away from these; they're dangerous.
- 52a: Childhood home of Jesus (NAZARETH). Great fill. Me, I would have gone a different direction with the clue, but it's all good.
- 6d: "What nerve!" (THE IDEA). Cool, if outdated, exclamation.
- 10d: Tussle (SKIRMISH). Skirmish feels a little more severe to me than tussle, as it tends to imply the use of weaponry, whereas tussle tends to imply grappling. But they're both great words.
- 18d: Forgers' workplaces (SMITHIES). I have a copy of Goya's "The Forge" hanging in my living room that my great-grandfather painted years ago, so I love this clue.
- 22d: Software seller's concern (PIRACY). Easy, but colorful.
- 26d: Malt beverage whose name means "winter" in Russian (ZIMA). I've never tried Zima. Can anyone offer an opinion on its merits? Still, it's a great fill word.
- 30d: Pay down (AMORTIZE). Is this a tough word for a Tuesday? I didn't think so, but my dad's a CPA.
- 37d: Happenings (GOINGS ON). Very nice.
- 46d: Computer class setting (PC LAB). Not many words start with PCL-, so this kind of fill is always great to see.
- 1a: Cummerbund's spot (WAIST). Another good prom/wedding season clue.
- 6a: Happy hour exclamation, perhaps (TGIF). Do people actually exclaim "T.G.I.F."? Are these the same people who say "How about this heat?"?
- 10a: Hand measurement (SPAN). My left hand can span an octave plus 3 notes on a standard piano. This is a pretty discordant sound (an 11th), but I can hit 10ths with comfort, which are nice in jazz.
- 14a: Show rage onstage, say (EMOTE). EMOTE is approaching serious-overuse status. It is showing up an awful lot lately.
- 15a: "Alice Doesn't Live ___ Anymore" (HERE). What a great way to spice up a boring fill word. This was the Martin Scorsese movie on which the TV show "Alice" was based. It's been awhile, but I seem to recall that the language in the movie was much harsher than "Kiss my grits!". I also recall that the movie was pretty good, but it was a long time ago. I'll have to go rent it soon.
- 19a: About (IN RE). Don't confuse this with INRI, which is the inscription on the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Both appear quite frequently in puzzles.
- 23a: Stabler, once (RAIDER). Ken Stabler quarterbacked the Oakland Raiders through-out the 1970s.
- 38a: Earth tones (OCHERS). This color can be spelled OCHER or OCHRE, so watch out for it both ways.
- 39a: Got to (ANNOYED). Good clue.
- 41a: Jimmy (PRY). Ditto.
- 42a: Simpleton (ASS). I don't like this clue. You can be a simpleton without being an ass and vice versa. Who you are may make you a simpleton, but it's your behavior that makes you an ass. Two different things in my book.
- 43a: Greeted as a villain (HISSED AT). Nice.
- 45a: French political division (ÉTAT). French for state. This shows up a lot.
- 48a: Former Toyota model (CELICA). Of all the former car models, this one seems to show up more than I'd expect. I think it's because the letter C can be particularly difficult to cross.
- 59a: Folkie Guthrie (ARLO). Hey, we have an "Alice" mini-theme going here. I won't post the link to "Alice's Restaurant"; you can find it if you want, or just wait until Thanksgiving when fifteen different radio stations play it around throughout the day.
- 60a: Duel tool (EPÉE). Ah, yes, the ubiquitous epée. It should be your first instinct if the clue mentions duel, fence, olympics, sword, or blade.
- 63a: Part of VFW (WARS). Veterans of Foreign Wars. I'm tempted to give this one a "bridge" tag, since so many club games and tournaments are held in VFW halls.
- 1d: Sold (WENT). As in, it WENT for $20.
- 5d: Edison rival (TESLA). Also an 80s hair band.
- 7d: Boomer's kid (GEN-XER). This one's starting to stale a bit from overuse, but it's still decent fill.
- 8d: NYC subway line (IRT). If you're not from NYC, which I'm not, then just remember this one. Because you're going to see it again and again. If it'll help, it stands for Interborough Rapid Transit.
- 9d: Come clean, with "up" (FESS). Fess up is a great phrase. It's also a great name.
- 12d: Courtyards (ATRIA).
- 13d: Very much (NO END).
- 24d: Monopoly quartet: Abbr. (RRS). Railroads: Short Line, Pennsylvania, B&O, and Reading.
- 27d: ___ maiden (torture device) (IRON). Another heavy metal/hair band reference. I visited the torture chamber in Warwick Castle, England, and let me tell you, the human race can be pretty sick and twisted.
- 32d: Actress Milano of "Charmed" (ALYSSA).
- 34d: Bear in the night sky (URSA). Constellation reference.
- 35d: "Yo!" alternative (PSST). (whispering) Psst. I'm getting tired of seeing psst in my puzzles. This is like the third or fourth time in the last week or so.
- 41d: Parts of mouths (PALATES).
- 44d: More difficult to get through to (DENSER). More like a simpleton, but not necessarily an ass.
- 45d: One bringing home the bacon (EARNER).
- 47d: Department in France's Rhône-Alpes region (LOIRE). It's a river and it's a valley, so it's no stretch to assume it could be a department also.
- 49d: Gave a hoot (CARED). Nice clue.
- 51d: Shoot forth (SPEW). This one can be almost too colorful. I'll leave it at that.
- 53d: Architect Saarinen (EERO). Just remember this; it's never going away.
- 54d: Fall preceder? (TRIP). Cute. Sort of.
- 58d: Gp. concerned about emissions (EPA). Environmental Protection Agency.
Suns of Bitches:
- 31a: "Beyond the Dream" author Berkow (IRA). Should I know this? Well, I didn't.
All in all, a very enjoyable Tuesday.
Thanks for listening.
- Pete M.