THEME: The "Quiet Meetings" are two-word phrases in which the words "meet" with two P's. In music, pp denotes pianissimo, or "very softly."
This isn't among my favorite sorts of themes—when all that binds the theme answers is a coincidental couple of letters, the "aha" factor drops significantly. You don't get the payoff of feeling frightfully clever for figuring out the theme.
And yes, yesterday I said that PuzzleGirl would be your host today, but she is visiting the Hawkeye State so I'm covering for her.
Crosswordese 101: A pig's STY is one thing and a STYE (19A: Eyelid problem) is an entirely different thing. According to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition, the word STYE dates back about four centuries and means "an inflamed swelling of a sebaceous gland at the margin of an eyelid." Your ophthalmologist would call it a hordeolum, but we won't be seeing that in the crossword any time soon. It's the four-letter STYE that rules the day—and this will be the answer just about 100% of the time a clue suggests eyelid woes.
I'd include an informative STYE photo but trust me, most of you don't want to see it, and those who do can Google it themselves.
- 23A: *Recycled stuff (SCRAP PAPER).
- 25A: *Most dreaming occurs in the last one (SLEEP PHASE). Boy, is it ever hard to wake up when the alarm goes off in the middle of your dream.
- 46A: *West Coast Marine Corps training base (CAMP PENDLETON).
- 68A: *It's loaded with rolls (CAP PISTOL).
- 90A: *"Science" employed in many a self-help book (POP PSYCHOLOGY). That's a zippy answer.
- 113A: *Game you have to dress for (STRIP POKER). And this answer's even zippier.
- 115A: Musical direction, and a hint to the quiet meetings taking place in the answers to starred clues (PIANISSIMO). Do 5th-grade band members snicker about the pp/"pee-pee" thing?
- 38D: *Liability suit targets (DEEP POCKETS).
- 42D: *Thing to do first (TOP PRIORITY).
- 35A: North Dakota State's home (FARGO). PuzzleGirl has North Dakota roots as well as Iowa roots. I always get disgruntled on Fargo's behalf when crossword clues about a city on the Red River lead to HANOI instead of FARGO. Both five letters...
- 45A: It can't be returned (ACE).
- 63A: Rods with roasts (SPITS). No, not DANGERFIELDS. Nobody ever called him Rod anyway.
- 71A: Debt evidence (CHITS). Chits are IOUs. I can't say I've ever heard anyone use the word, but it does pop up in crosswords occasionally.
- 79A: 1950s-'60s "Man on the Street" comic (NYE). Louis Nye, not Bill Nye the Science Guy.
- 88A: Actress Conn (DIDI). She starred in the '70s movie You Light Up My Life (theme song recorded by Debby Boone). I liked her in that and sorta wanted to be her at the time. I no longer remember what the movie was about or whether Didi Conn did anything of note after that. Whoops! Wikipedia tells me that she was in Grease and its sequel, as Frenchy. Rex would have known that.
- 93A: X, at times (TEN). This one kept me guessing for way too long. Roman numeral X = 10.
- 107A: Captain Marvel's magic word (SHAZAM). This was just in another crossword this weekend. "Shazam!" If you were a kid in the '70s, you probably watched the Saturday morning super hour, 30 minutes of "Shazam!" action with Billy Batson and 30 minutes with Isis, straying far afield from her Egyptian fertility goddess roots.
- 119A: Very, in scores (ASSAI). Can something be assai pianissimo?
- 3D: Green party? (TYRO). In crosswords, green can refer to a newbie or TYRO. It can connote ECO/ECOL. It can be slang for cash or have something to do with golf. It can even pertain to Ralph Nader and the Green Party, which this clue's trying to make you think of.
- 87D: Impudence (CHUTZPAH). I love both of these words, I do.
- 102D: '90s "SNL" regular Farley (CHRIS). If you loved Chris Farley, you should read The Chris Farley Show, sort of a biography–cum–oral history.
- 106D: Seed cover (ARIL). This word was in the New York Times crossword the other day, and at my other blog, the commenters discussed the relative merits of ARIL and ANIL (the source of indigo dye) as litmus tests to identify hardcore crossword solvers. If your first thought upon reading "seed cover" is ARIL, you just might be a crossword maniac.
- 30A: "Washington Merry-Go-Round" columnist (PEARSON). Wow, I never even saw this clue. Filled in PEARSON via the Downs, as it happens. Had I seen the clue, I'd have had no choice but to fill it in via the Downs. Wikipedia reminds me that I looked up Drew Pearson the last time he was in a crossword, so apparently I forgot all about him. It's hard for 42-year-olds to remember people who died 40 years ago.
- 67D: Former African territory __-Urundi (now two countries) (RUANDA). Once a Belgian suzerainty, in 1962 the territory split into Rwanda and Burundi. Hey, you know how Don Cheadle starred in Hotel Rwanda and then more recently was in the family film Hotel for Dogs? I like to say the latter is the sequel.