THEME: "What a Tease"—If you lop off the ends of four phrases by slashing the first word, you get four synonyms for "tease"
This was one of those themes that eluded me until after I finished the puzzle. I read the four phrases in the longest answers. Then I read them aloud to my husband. Then I read the last words aloud. Then I read the first words aloud, and it finally clicked.
- 17A: Mojave Desert grower (JOSHUA TREE). Hidden JOSH.
- 26A: Flashy theatricality (RAZZLE DAZZLE). Hidden RAZZ. And who doesn't like a phrase that (a) is fun to say and (b) contains four Zs?
- 44A: VIP at a grand opening (RIBBON CUTTER). This entry's the black sheep in the theme family. To hide the RIB, something like RIBBIT, RIBBIT would've been more fun—thought that would be inconsistent with the other theme entries by virtue of having two RIBs in it.
- 60A: Place to wade (KIDDIE POOL). Hidden KID; lively phrase.
Crosswordese 101: ALERO! Oldsmobile is no more, but in crosswords, the not-so-distinguished ALERO lives on. Parked at 25A, this was the Last Olds ever made. It's the most popular Oldsmobile in the puzzle, but occasionally the CIERA gets a little attention. So you can definitely fill in **ER* if you have a five-letter space for an Olds model, and are usually safe if you go with ALERO. You can buy a used 2004 ALERO for as little as $2,000 these days.
And now, a smattering of clues and their answers:
- 10A: Hook for landing large fish (GAFF). Not a word on the tip of my tongue.
- 21A: Moved to and fro, as a golf club just before swinging (WAGGLED). I prefer the waggle dance of honeybees, but this golf usage is in the dictionary. WAGGLED sounds like GARGLE, doesn't it> That one is clued as 10D: Use Listerine, say (GARGLE).
- 42A: Former wrestling star __ Brazil (BOBO). What the heck is this? Who? Apparently Bobo Brazil was a "professional wrestler" back in the '70s, when my great-grandmother and her husband would watch wrestling and my sister and I would roll our eyes and go back upstairs as soon as we wheedled some chewing gum out of the old folks' stash of Wrigley. Hey, PuzzleGirl, here's a wrestling video for you:
- 67A: 1" = 100', e.g. (SCALE). At the John Hancock Center in Chicago last weekend, my son admired the Lego Hancock kit. What's the SCALE for a Lego building that's about 8" tall, modeled after an edifice that's 1,506' tall including the antennas?
- 8D: Penthouse feature (VIEW). You know what's got a better view than most penthouses? The 94th floor observation deck of the Hancock. It's a great place to watch the fireworks...though you have to look downward a tad.
- 43D: Romantic lowerings (SUNSETS). Watching a summer sunset from the 94th floor is breathtaking. Big crimson ball sinks lower...lower...smaller...and poof, it's gone. Too bad my camera phone took such mediocre pictures of that sunset. Before I forget: "lowerings" is a terrible word.
- 45D: Bit of Christmas debris (NEEDLE). Anyone else try TINSEL first? A dry, fallen pine NEEDLE is much more debris-ish than a bit of tinsel, I suppose.