THEME: The Saturday puzzle is themeless—the game is decoding tougher clues and figuring out a slew of longer words and phrases
This crossword is a bit easier than the usual Saturday puzzle—but the difficulty level should be easing back upwards soon now that the former TMS solvers have had over a month to get accustomed to Rich Norris's editorial style.
Crosswordese 101: Ah, looky here: one of my least treasured types of crosswordese, the military honor abbreviation: 10D: U.S. Army medals (DSCS). Do you know how many U.S. military awards and decorations there are? A veritable ton. DSC stands for the Distinguished Service Cross.
I generally cannot keep DSC separate in my head from a couple British honors. The DSO is the Distinguished Service Order. And then there are the honors a few notches shy of knighthood—OBE and MBE stand for order and member, respectively, of the British Empire.
What I do is stash all of these abbreviations in my head in a jumble, and hope that the crossings lead me to the right answer without any trouble. Sometimes it works okay and sometimes...not so hot.
Among the more obscure stuff:
- 1A: The Pleiades' Alcyone, for one (GIANT STAR). Is there an astronomer in the house?
- 27A: German aviation pioneer Lilienthal (OTTO). All I can tell you about this one is that I believe Lilienthal is German for "valley of lilies." Wikipedia says they called him the Glider King, but I like to reserve terms like that for flying squirrels.
- 48A: Not pizzicato (ARCO). To play a stringed instrument ARCO means to use a bow, I think. The dictionary gently informs me that pizzicato means "plucking the strings of a violin or other stringed instrument with one's finger."
- Speaking of stringed instruments, KOTOS are 51D: Japanese stringed instruments.
- 54D: Exec gps. (MGTS). I was dithering between MGRS and MGMT.
Favorite answers and clues:
- 15A: Touching base (IN CONTACT).
- 17A: Where many strings are pulled (BEHIND THE SCENES).
- 37A: Fall opportunities for high school seniors (EARLY ADMISSIONS).
- 41A: Making a crossing (ASEA). Too much crosswording muddles the meaning of "crossing" for me, turning this clue into a temporary mystery.
- 45A: Often-allergic attack (ASTHMA). Do you know what breed Ren, of Ren and Stimpy fame, is? He's an asthma-hound chihuahua:
- 58A: Former Boer republic (ORANGE FREE STATE).
- 65A: Like an imposition (A LOT TO ASK).
- 1D: Pop singing brothers from the Isle of Man (GIBBS). The Bee Gees comprised Barry, Maurice, and Robin; little brother Andy Gibb had a solo career.
- 8D: Classic ghost story (A CHRISTMAS CAROL). If your summer involves any ghost stories told by the campfire, be sure to regale the kids with Dickens.
- 12D: Ruined (GONE TO POT).
- 14D: Confirmation word (YES). I was looking for something much more specific to, say, religious confirmation rites.
- 32D: Tumult (MAELSTROM). Terrific word, ain't it?
- 38D: Letter opener (DEAR). You thought about putting SIRS here, didn't you?
Everything Else — 10A: Bag opening? (DOGGY); 16A: Dull thing, in slang (SNORE); 19A: Street address (BRO); 20A: Sun. speech (SER); 21A: Milo of "Ulysses" (OSHEA); 22A: Shellac (STOMP); 25A: Turbulent waters (RIPS); 29A: Like some felonies (CLASSA); 31A: China biggie (SPODE); 32A: Polite title (MADAM); 34A: Branch headquarters? (TREE); 36A: Inflate (PAD); 40A: Cotillion honoree (DEB); 42A: Sense of style (TASTE); 43A: Flash (GLINT); 47A: This, in Toledo (ESTO); 49A: Battle of Endor fighters of film (EWOKS); 53A: Shellac (TROMP); 55A: Ernst contemporary (ARP); 57A: Chem. unit (MOL); 62A: Out of, as work (NOTAT); 63A: It's pitched at a stake (HORSESHOE); 64A: Dreams, to some (OMENS); 2D: Like some gases (INERT); 3D: Cold burst? (ACHOO); 4D: "There's __ in team" (NOI); 5D: Spike TV, once (TNN); 6D: Avg. levels (STDS); 7D: Chitlins might be cooked with 'em (TATERS); 9D: Numbered hwy. (RTE); 11D: Like some grounders (ONEHOP); 13D: Scooby-Doo, for one (GREATDANE); 18D: It might be sent from a bridge (SOS); 23D: 15th century year (MCDL); 24D: Dabble in (PLAYAT); 26D: __ passu: impartially (PARI); 28D: Sizable refs. (OEDS); 30D: Latin I word (AMAS); 31D: Oil source (SESAME); 33D: Resolve, in a way (ARBITRATE); 35D: O.T. book (ESTH); 37D: Go cautiously (EDGE); 39D: "The Last Time __ Paris": 1954 film (ISAW); 44D: Reagan speechwriter (NOONAN); 46D: Corrida hero (TORERO); 48D: Mock (APE); 50D: Missouri River city (OMAHA); 52D: Glossy (SLEEK); 54D: Exec gps. (MGTS); 56D: Gnat, for one (PEST); 58D: "Double Fantasy" artist (ONO); 59D: Loan-insuring org. (FHA); 60D: Congeal (SET); 61D: Chicken general (TSO).