Theme: "Watch the Birdie"—You can find the letters ONE literally under the letters PAR at ten different places in the grid. [Note: The circles were not printed on the grid. I put them in so you can see the theme answers more clearly.]
- 20A: Fortified (RAMPARTED). Ouch.
- 23A: Cather novel set in Nebraska (O PIONEERS!). I remember from the last time a Willa Cather clue came up that O Pioneers! and My Ántonia have the same number of letters. Do you think she planned that?
- 21A: Convey (IMPART).
- 24A: __ Tunes (LOONEY).
- 36A: Not up to snuff (SUBPAR).
- 43A: Nary a soul (NOONE).
- 44A: Peeled strip (PARING).
- 50A: Year in Augustus' reign (ONE B.C.).
- 61A: Cowpoke's pal (PARD).
- 69A: Birdie that's hidden literally in 10 pairs of puzzle answers (ONE UNDER PAR).
- 76A: Skye of "Say Anything ..." (IONE). CrossWorld's favorite 80s actress.
- 88A: Like some stock (NO PAR).
- 93A: Philosopher __ de Beauvoir (SIMONE).
- 94A: Arctic garb (PARKA).
- 99A: Tip of Massachusetts (O'NEILL). Tricky, tricky clue.
- 115A: Ancient Athens rival (SPARTA).
- 120A: Complexion aids (TONERS).
- 117A: Californian shrubland (CHAPARRAL).
- 121A: Time long past (BYGONE ERA).
Crosswordese 101: ARES is the Greek god of war. Not to be confused with EROS, the Greek god of love. Two totally different things. Obviously. In early-week puzzles, you'll typically get a straightforward clue like [Greek war god] or something equally as clever. Today the clue is [14D: Bellicose god]. Bellicose, of course, meaning ... um ... hold on. "Favoring or inclined to start quarrels or wars." So, yeah. ARES. From Wednesday on out, chances are you're going to get a lesson on ARES's family tree. Here are a few of his relatives:
- Parents: Hera, Zeus
- Children: Deimos, Phobos, Harmonia, Hippolyta
- Half-siblings: Hercules, Athena, Hermes
- Uncle: Demeter
- Grandmother: Rhea
- Lover: Aphrodite
Back to this awesome theme! It's awesome! Okay, I'll stop now with the exclamation points. But really, I'm blown away. This is the kind of theme I might on my very best day think of but then decide after about ten minutes that it would be impossible to execute. Luckily, Will Nediger isn't as lazy as I am. Or maybe he's just smarter. Whatever. He hit on a great theme and executed it very impressively. Of course the theme places some heavy restrictions on the grid, so you're bound to see some clunkers. Let's just get them out of the way.
- 103A: Dig discoveries: Var. (SHERDS). I really hate to see "Var." in my puzzle. To me, it means that the answer is going to be a made-up word that's very similar to a real word. And in this puzzle, we've got two of them. [81D: Like pumice: Var.] is POROSE.
- 105A: Ill. metropolis (CHI.). That's an ugly, ugly abbreviation for Chicago. I mean, I can't think of any other abbreviation for Chicago, but why do you need one? Speaking of abbreviations, 9D: MS. fixers (EDS.) hurts a little. MS = manuscripts and EDS. = editors. And that pain is compounded by the inclusion of 57A: Further shorten, maybe (RE-EDIT). Owie!
- 124A: Didn't worry a bit (SLEPT EASY). Rest easy. That's the phrase. Rest easy. Then there's 7D: Far from frenzied (AT EASE), which is a completely legitimate phrase, but I don't like seeing both easy and ease in the same puzzle.
- 38D: Attorney's specialty (LIBEL LAW). Well, this would be the specialty of a certain type of lawyer. A libel lawyer maybe? They probably have those in L.A.
- 47D: Cassandra, for one (SEERESS). Seer is bad enough, but tacking on the "feminine" ending? Let's just say I'm not a fan of the "feminine" ending. The other big Wheel of Fortune Letter pile-up is at 87D: Doctor, at times (REFERRER).
- 48D: Private pupil (TUTEE). I think this word is legitimate, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
- 63D: Three letters forming a single sound (TRIGRAPH). Any linguists out there? I bet this one was easy for you.
- 65D: Obnoxious sort, in slang (CREEPO). Your mission is to use this word today in a normal conversation.
- 26A: Mind the store (VEND). I had tend at first which really caused some problems up there in the NW corner.
- 31A: Bev Bevan's band, briefly (ELO). I feel like I let you down by not telling you all the band members when I covered ELO in a recent Crosswordese 101 lesson. I apologize.
- 38A: Pickup trick (LINE). Could not figure out what this clue was going for. A trick that a pickup truck does? Like a wheelie or something? No, that's a bike.
- 47A: Chilling order? (SEDATIVE). I don't really get this one. Does this mean chill as in calm down? Okay, that makes sense. I guess when I think sedative my mind goes more toward the anesthesia end of the spectrum, which is on a whole different plain than "chilling."
- 51A: Three-part European union (BENELUX). Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg. I looked that one up for you. It's just one of the services I offer.
- 55A: HI and OK (STS.). Sorry to any Canadians out there. We do love our postal abbreviations here in the United States! These two are Hawaii and Oklahoma.
- 60A: "Hud" Oscar winner (NEAL). Patricia Neal won the Best Actress Oscar for this 1963 movie. Whenever I see "Hud" I always think of "The Hudsucker Proxy," another Paul Newman movie. But "Hud" is the story of a self-centered, modern-day cowboy and "The Hudsucker Proxy" is a 1994 screwball comedy fantasy film written, produced and directed by, hey! The COEN Brothers! 113A: Either director of "No Country for Old Men" (COEN).
- 86A: Boo Boo, in Barcelona? (OSO). Yogi Bear's sidekick, Boo Boo? That's how I read it anyway. Oso is Spanish for bear.
- 89A: Net grazers (LETS). This is a tennis reference. A served ball that grazes the net on its way to the other side is called a let. Or a do-over. Depends on how old you are and how seriously you take the game.
- 96A: Small wrapper? (ELF). Not a small piece of paper that a candy is wrapped in, but a small person who wraps.
- 98A: Hit the sauce (TOPE). Oh man. I can't believe I missed this one for Crosswordese 101. Some other time for sure.
- 122A: Clunkhead (JERK). If you're not able to use creepo today, maybe you'll have better luck with clunkhead.
- 13D: One of two Crayola colors with the shortest name (TAN). The other is ... red? Just a guess.
- 35D: LeBron James, e.g., briefly (CAV). Love him. His nickname is "The King," you know.
- 37D: Cabs on the table (REDS). Ooh, I just got this now. It's wine.
- 61D: Pope's work (POEMS). Not the Pope, but Alexander Pope.
- 66D: Jazzman Woody (HERMAN). A gimme for me. He was one of the two big jazz guys that came and performed at our high school. The other was Maynard Ferguson. This was like a hundred years ago. Hey! This song kinda goes along with the theme:
- 83D: Classic Chunky brand (ALPO). I was thinking peanut butter and I have to say, I had a very strong physical reaction when I realized the clue was talking about dog food instead.
- 111D: Doo-wop group anchor (BASS). Let's see if I can find some cool doo-wop. This should work:
Everything Else — 1A: Hardly a knockout (PLAIN JANE); 10A: Imported roadsters (MIATAS); 16A: Schools of thought (ISMS); 22A: Via, to Burns (THRO'); 25A: Con victims (SAPS); 27A: Large currency unit? (WAD); 28A: Ancient France (GAUL); 29A: Bagel flavoring (SESAME); 32A: "The Life Aquatic with Steve __": Bill Murray film (ZISSOU); 34A: Dr. Mom's remedy (TLC); 39A: "Great Expectations" hero (PIP); 41A: Iowa's state tree (OAK); 49A: "__ better not" (YOU'D); 52A: Houston-to-Dallas dir. (NNW); 56A: "Come Back, Little Sheba" playwright (INGE). 58A: Cybercommerce (E-TAIL); 62A: Brings home (NETS); 64A: Brno-born people (CZECHS); 68A: Starbucks order (TALL); 72A: Priceless? (FREE); 73A: Scandalous stuff (SLEAZE); 75A: Plant reproduction prefix (SPOR-); 77A: Stretch (TERM); 78A: Development sites (WOMBS); 80A: Kid's shooter (POP GUN); 82A: Burlap source (HEMP); 83A: Crunch targets (ABS); 87A: Sorrow (REMORSE); 91A: Judgment Day hymn (DIES IRAE); 97A: One whose tickets are often expensive (COP); 101A: Big cat sign (LEO); 108A: Most of Uruguay (PAMPAS); 110A: Hayseed (RUBE); 112A: Aunt, in Uruguay (TÍA); 114A: Capitale south of San Marino (ROMA); 119A: They may be pale (ALES); 123A: Knockouts attract them (STARES); 1D: Leave no doubt (PROVE); 2D: Carnation location (LAPEL); 3D: __ acid (AMINO); 4D: Nano or shuffle (IPOD); 5D: Pita look-alike (NAN); 6D: TV shooting victim of 3/21/1980 (J.R. EWING); 8D: Geeky types (NERDS); 10D: "__ 18" (Uris novel) (MILA); 11D: "Too rich for my blood" (I'M OUT); 12D: Lunar Module test mission (APOLLO IX); 15D: Eyelid sores (STYES); 16D: Delivery notice? (IT'S A BOY); 17D: Garnier products (SHAMPOOS); 18D: Monocled food mascot (MR. PEANUT); 19D: 2006 Rihanna hit (SOS); 28D: Showed where to go (GUIDED); 30D: Baltimore daily (SUN); 32D: Mineral in oysters (ZINC); 33D: Bared one's soul (OPENED UP); 40D: The same either way (PALINDROMIC); 42D: Lane partner (KENT); 44D: APB part (POINTS); 45D: Temper (ANNEAL); 46D: Lavishly entertain (REGALE); 51D: Breakfast staple (BRAN); 53D: Abalone product (NACRE); 54D: Virtuoso (WIZ); 58D: Adopt, as a cause (ESPOUSE); 59D: Moved out (LEFT HOME); 67D: Throughout, in music (SEMPRE); 70D: Casual rebuffs (NOPES); 71D: Either of two Henry VIII wives (ANNE); 74D: Moat site (ZOO); 79D: Presage (BODE); 84D: Ectomorph (BEAN POLE); 85D: Newlyweds' car decoration (STREAMER); 88D: Barely beats (NIPS); 90D: Holdup cover-up (SKI MASK); 92D: Peaked (ILL); 93D: Fountain drink (SODA POP); 95D: High point of a European vacation? (ALP); 98D: Army medic's system (TRIAGE); 100D: Doesn't die out (LASTS); 102D: Eccentric (OUTRE); 104D: Type of alcohol (ETHYL); 105D: Jazz pianist Chick (COREA); 106D: Gets wind of (HEARS); 107D: Driller's filling (INLAY); 109D: Obsession for Lady Macbeth (SPOT); 113D: Hudson Bay tribe (CREE); 114D: British rule in India (RAJ); 116D: TV wheel spinner's purchase (AN A); 117D: "Criminal Minds" network (CBS); 118D: Tiny army member (ANT).