THEME: "Don't Make a Sound"—Intersecting words meet at silent letters
All right, let me get the crankiness out of the way right off the bat. I paid little mind to the full clue for 41-Across, so I didn't know the significance of the circled squares until the whole puzzle was filled in and I set to work understanding it. So basically I completed this puppy as if it were an unsatisfying themeless puzzle. Lots of "meh" answers and the clues, well, I don't see a single question-marked clue to liven things up. The solving process was just...annoying.
The theme involves a 15-letter answer across the middle, plus seven criss-crossing word pairs that share a silent letter. Unless I counted wrong, that's an astounding 81 squares of thematic material, which is certainly enough to force any number of compromises in the fill. I tend to get cranky at compromises in the fill, alas.
Where do you fall on the spectrum here? Let's say 10 is "Wow! Incredible puzzle!" and i is "I wish I had those minutes back." I'm feeling 5-ish at best.
- 41A: Secret get-together, or what occurs literally in each of this puzzle's circled squares (HUSH-HUSH MEETING). The circled letters are hush-hush meetings of two words.
- 5A, 8D: Clever move (COUP)/Prefix with science (PSEUDO-). Silent P from French and Greek.
- 9A, 9D: Bad-mouth (KNOCK)/Hillock (KNOLL). Two words from Old English with now-silent Ks.
- 4D, 28A: Newspaper feature (COLUMN)/Organ numbers (HYMNS). Classical roots for both of these M+silent N words.
- 48A, 48D: Like Letterman lines (WRY)/Eerie apparition (WRAITH). Silent W before an R; one Old English root, one Scots/unknown.
- 40D, 54A: Oppose (REPUGN)/Omen (SIGN). Silent G in a GN combo. Both words are from Middle English by way of Old French taken from Latin. Begging your pardon: REPUGN? I know an awful lot of words, but I haven't run across this one before. Repugnant, sure. Impugn, of course. But not this word.
- 57D, 64A: Prefix with stat (RHEO-)/Like a question that isn't a question (RHETORICAL). Silent H after an R, presumably a Greek rho being transliterated as RH rather than R. It's a bit of a cheat to throw in a prefix here, but RHYME is too long for this spot and havign 81 theme squares gives little flexibility.
- 63D, 73A: Blockbuster, e.g. (BOMB)/Oversimplify, with "down" (DUMB). BOMB has a promiscuous etymology—English from French via Italian, probably from Latin, before that from Greek, "of imitative origin." In other words, everyone agrees it bomb/bombe/bomba/bombus/bombos sounds like "boom." DUMB's a good Old English word of Germanic origin.
Crosswordese 101: LEHAR—clued as 32D: "The Merry Widow" operettist—is today's selection. Franz LEHAR is sometimes clued along the lines of Hungarian composer Franz, but mostly it's "The Merry Widow" composer. Do not get him confused with Joy Behar of The View. Has anyone heard this LEHAR work, The Merry Widow, or is it the sort of thing that's kept alive primarily by crosswords?
What made me so cranky? All sorts of stuff. Abbreviations (STAC, ILO, AARP, NCAA). Foreign words (NUL, CINE, PESO, AMI). Bony references (ULNA, OSTEAL). Prefixes/suffixes (RHEO-, -CYTE). Blah names (ELAM, YUL, SELA, KETT, LEHAR, AUEL). Old-school crosswordese (AXIL). An ILLER IDLER.
The nonexistent (except in jest) singular KUDO!
The awkward abbreviation in the clue for 20A: Peak in Jap. (MT. FUJI)—please, let's go with Peak in Japan: Abbr. next time.
Favorite answers and clues:
- 21D: Violinist Heifetz (JASCHA). I love the sound of the name "Jascha Heifetz." Have a listen:
- 34D: Fang output, at times (VENOM) is echoed by the snake in 50D: Unclogged, as a pipe (SNAKED).
- 29D: Brooklyn pronoun (YOUSE). One could ARGUE (35D: Get contentious) that YOUSE isn't a word, but it's the kind of word I like to encounter in a crossword. It's got panache.
Everything Else — 1A: Like a dotted note, in mus. (STAC.); 14A: Cancún green (PESO); 15A: Browser drop-down list, briefly (URLS); 16A: Film that involves a lot of taking off (NUDIE); 17A: Stem-to-branch angle (AXIL); 18A: Good (BENEVOLENT); 22A: "The Clan of the Cave Bear" writer (AUEL); 23A: 7-5, e.g., in tennis (SET); 24A: Truck name (MACK); 26A: Where to find heros (DELIS); 31A: UN workers' group (ILO); 33A: Vena __: heart vessel (CAVA); 36A: Pencil game winner (OOO); 37A: Cell: Suffix (-CYTE); 39A: Favor (PREFER); 44A: Bony (OSTEAL); 45A: Srs.' lobbying gp. (AARP); 46A: Gehrig of baseball (LOU); 47A: Actress Ward (SELA); 49A: 1972 Bill Withers hit (USE ME); 51A: Not as healthy (ILLER); 56A: Tablets holder (ARK); 58A: Country where Baha'i was founded (IRAN); 60A: "CSI" workplace (DNA LAB); 67A: Accolade (KUDO); 68A: Fruit in balls (MELON); 69A: Like pets (TAME); 70A: Jack of "Rio Lobo" (ELAM); 71A: Toys on strings (YO-YOS); 72A: '60s musical (HAIR); 1D: User's in-box junk (SPAM); 2D: Send a high-tech message to (TEXT); 3D: "Don't you wish!" ("AS IF!"); 5D: Part of cc (CUBIC); 6D: Tram contents (ORE); 7D: Forearm bone (ULNA); 10D: Nada, to Noël (NUL); 11D: With "The," 1972 Frederick Forsyth novel (ODESSA FILE); 12D: Film (CINE); 13D: Etta of old comics (KETT); 19D: Sign from Churchill (VEE); 25D: First-aid aids (KITS); 27D: Gangsta rap pioneer (ICE-T); 28D: Hostess snack cakes (HO-HOS); 30D: Probable (MOST LIKELY); 38D: Brynner who played a king (YUL); 39D: For each (PER); 42D: Get well (HEAL); 43D: Giant Willie (MAYS); 52D: Motor City team (LIONS); 53D: Go awry (ERR); 55D: Lazy type (IDLER); 56D: It "marches on its stomach": Napoleon (ARMY); 59D: Sweet Sixteen initials (NCAA); 61D: Blockbuster (LULU); 62D: Cain raiser (ADAM); 65D: Excessively (TOO); 66D: French friend (AMI).