THEME: "Pepper Pot"— Five phrases begin with words that can precede PEPPER in all its splendor
Get a load of this theme. Three 15-letter answers and a pair of 9's, plus a 6-letter answer that unifies it all? That adds up to 69 squares of thematic material, which is a lot to squeeze into a puzzle. The theme entries are lively and the "___ PEPPER" phrases they contribute to also sparkle. Monday to Wednesday themes often don't grab me, but I liked this one's spiciness.
Crosswordese 101: You don't hear much about 30A: Western treaty gp. (OAS) in the news these days. What is it? An organization of 35 countries in North and South America. I know next to nothing about the OAS, other than that it is a "Western treaty gp." or a "W. Hemisphere alliance." NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is better known. So is OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. A couple bygone multinational coalitions still appear in the crossword on occasion: the European Economic Community, or EEC, and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, or SEATO.
- 17A: Beetle Bailey's boss (SERGEANT SNORKEL). Sgt. Snorkel's dog OTTO is a much more common visitor to the crossword grid. The Beatles released Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band back in the day.
- 25A: Quasimodo's milieu (BELL TOWER)."Sanctuary!" If you offer me bell peppers, I will request sanctuary somewhere where you cannot reach me.
- 39A: Swiss Miss, e.g. (HOT CHOCOLATE MIX). Marshmallows in mine, please. Hot peppers? They have their place, but it's not in hot chocolate. Though Mexican hot chocolate has a kick to it.
- 47A: Physician of 1930s-'40s films (DR. KILDARE). Was Dr. Kildare also a '60s TV show? Yes. "Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?" Me, I don't care for Dr. Pepper.
- 60A: German dessert, American-style (BLACK FOREST CAKE). Chocolate + cherries = winning combo. Hold the black pepper.
- 69A: Word that can follow the first word of 17-, 25-, 39-, 47-, or 60-Across (PEPPER).
An olio of answers and clues:
- 15A: Place serving links (IHOP). My neighborhood IHOP restaurant has got to be one of the land's finest IHOPs. Families with kids, old folks, cabbies, hipsters, and urbanites of all kinds flock there and enjoy the pancakes.
- 44A: Horror film creature (ZOMBIE). I do not want ZOMBIEs in my neighborhood, but in my crossword? They are always welcome.
- 68A: Will of "The Waltons" (GEER). He played Grandpa Walton. If it helps you to remember his name, think of it as GEEZER minus a couple letters.
- 2D: Juanita's January (ENERO). The Spanish first name is your cue that the answer will be in Spanish.
- 3D: Ex-NFL coach Hank (STRAM). He should've opened up a chain of stores that sell palindromes: Stram Marts.
- 5D: Like Chicago-style pizza (DEEP DISH). Every Chicagoan I know prefers thin crust pizza.
- 37D: 502, to the Romans (DII). Remember your Roman numerals? I = i, V = 5, X = 10, L = 50, C = 100, D = 500, and M = 1,000.
- 45D: Brew container (ALE KEG). I swear I just saw this answer in another puzzle a few days ago. It could be growing on me...or that could be the New Glarus brewery Spotted Cow Ale talking.
- 49D and 53D: Rogue pulls double duty. It's both a KNAVE and a SCAMP. All three of these 5-letter words are great, aren't they? I want you all to call someone a rogue, knave, or scamp today.