Theme: "You Gotta Be" — Theme answers start with a homophone of "B"
- 20A: February greeting card request (BE MY VALENTINE).
- 30A: Utah's nickname (BEEHIVE STATE).
- 39A: "Petticoat Junction" star (BEA BENADERET).
- 51A: Sue Grafton's second Kinsey Millhone novel ("B" IS FOR BURGLAR).
I like this type of theme for an early-week puzzle. It's simple, but allows for some creativity and when it's done well (like today, where none of the four theme answers start with the same form of B), that's definitely a plus. And yet ... Bea Benaderet? I can't wait to hear how many of you know who she is. I'm hoping it's just that I'm too young to have her in my memory bank and not that she's completely obscure. My gut reaction is that she's obscure. She was offered the role of Ethel Mertz in I Love Lucy, but didn't take it. She was considered for the role of Granny in The Beverly Hillbillies, but she didn't get it. She played the Lisa character in the radio version of Green Acres, but Eva Gabor was cast for the television series. She was the voice of Betty Rubble (not Wilma!) for four of the six years The Flintstones aired. She was definitely hanging around the edges for a number of years but ... is that enough? I'm gonna say "no." But I'm eager to hear your thoughts.
Crosswordese 101: SSTS (62A: Grounded fleet, briefly) are the go-to aircraft for crossword constructors. SST stands for "supersonic transport" and is a passenger aircraft that travels faster than the speed of sound. In other words, it "broke the sound barrier" (don't forget that — those words show up in clues!). Remember the Concorde? It was an SST. And it took its last flight on November 26, 2003. Will that keep it from showing up in the puzzle? With those letters?? Hell No! See, what you do is, you use words like bygone, retired, historic, or former (or today's grounded) in the clue and — problem solved! Otherwise, you just need to know that SSTs flew in and out of JFK International Airport and they crossed the Atlantic. That should be enough information for you to spot an SST clue.
I spent so much time researching Bea Ben-a-what's-her-name that I don't have a whole lot of time for the rest of the puzzle. So....
- 1A: Tout's topic (ODDS). According to Merriam-Webster Online, a tout is "one who spies out racing information for betting purposes." Did any of you know that? I sure didn't. And I've been known to place a bet or two on the ponies from time to time. Oh, it's "chiefly British." Maybe that's why I haven't heard it.
- 17A: Cath. prelate (MSGR.). Totally legitimate, but you have to admit that's an ugly abbreviation for Monsignor. Looks more like messenger.
- 23A: Baker or Bryant (ANITA). I think I've mentioned this before. Plural proper names, obviously, don't make for ideal fill. If this clue was "Singer Baker, and others" I wouldn't have liked it a bit. But if the two people with the same name are not related at all, it's cool with me. In fact, the more not-related they are the better. So Anita Baker and Anita Bryant? Two thumbs up from PuzzleGirl.
- 25A: "Mamma Mia!" trio? (EMS). I'm no math major, but I'm pretty sure there are four EMS in "Mamma Mia!" And that four makes a quartet, not a trio. Unless I'm totally missing something here, this is a mistake. If you're new to crossword puzzles, I bet this threw you off. I hope it wasn't too bad for you.
- 27A: "You __!": "Sure thing!" (BETCHA). A gimme for this Fargo girl, dontcha know.
- 29A: Four-time Wimbledon champ Rod (LAVER). You know who got this one easily? Me. Oh, and SethG.
- 54A: First name in daredeviltry (EVEL). Whoa, whoa, whoa — daredeviltry?? That's an awesome, awesome word.
- 64A: Hang around (STAY). Okay, here's the thing about doing this blog. You have no idea how easy it is to get sucked into YouTube when you're looking for a certain clip. I went looking for a clip from "The Office" that I thought would go with this answer (it was in the "Cafe Disco" episode where Michael is trying to get Kevin to stay at the Cafe Disco and Angela is trying to get him to go back to work) but I ended up spending, like, half an hour looking at other clips from "The Office." I didn't find the one I was looking for, but maybe you'll enjoy this:
- 22D: In apple-pie order (NEAT). Apple-pie order. I don't know what that means. Well, I guess it means "neat" but I've never heard it before. (More British?)
- 23D: Palindromic pop group (ABBA). Wait — I have a better clue! "'Mamma Mia!' quartet"!
- 37D: Bridle strap (REIN). I misread this clue as "Bridal strap" and was trying to think of the word garter. Basically, I'm an idiot is what I'm saying.