THEME: "The Mustache Club"—Five types of MUSTACHEs appear in the grid, and each is clued (with starred clues) as a non-mustache noun
64A: Each answer to a starred clue is a type of this (MUSTACHE).
17A: Evil Asian doctor in Sax Rohmer novels (FU MANCHU). Boris Karloff fit the part with the mustache at left.
11D: Scooter feature (HANDLEBAR). You don't see many of these today. Ballplayer Rollie Fingers is a notable handlebar sporter of recent years.
22D: Tusked mammal (WALRUS).. Popularly recognized as the Wilford Brimley 'stache, this one was also observed on former U.N. ambassador John Bolton. It seems like such an odd match for a serious person, the walrus mustache.
35D: Trotter's footwear item (HORSESHOE). "Trotter" also means an edible pig's foot. (Feh.) The horseshoe mustache is among my least favorite varieties of facial hair, right up there with muttonchops and a mustache-free full beard. The horseshoe seems to be au courant among the country/Southern fellas.
36D: Eyebrow cosmetic applicator (PENCIL). This is a rather creepy-looking little mustache. John Waters has been sporting a pencil for decades. Wouldn't you think he'd grow tired of it at some point?
Are there any famous mustache songs? Or movies? I can't think of anything that cries out for an embedded YouTube video right now.
Crosswordese 101: Today's fill is actually pretty good. Where are the prime offenders of crosswordese? There's not much to choose from for today's lesson. Let's go with a junky little fragment that most of us probably never use as a word outside of a crossword grid: TRA (63D: Musical syllable). That's part of the longer "tra-la" or "tra-la-la." TRA clues are generally along the lines of "song syllable," "refrain syllable," "___ la la," or "la preceder." That's one of the things that makes TRA such lame crossword fill: Not only is it not something we say, not only is it a dangling fragment, but it's also something that does not lend itself to interesting clueing options.
What else have we got here?
- 16A: Francia neighbor (ESPAÑA). That's France and Spain, in Spanish.
- 39A: Satisfied laugh (CHORTLE). I'd rather snicker, chuckle, or guffaw than CHORTLE.
- 53A: Ogden native (UTAHAN). It's important to know that there are two accepted spellings for the "person from Utah" word: UTAHAN and the crazy-looking UTAHN.
- 67A: Yemen coastal city (ADEN). Yep, this one's been covered in Crosswordese 101 before.
- 71A: Lay down the lawn (SOD). Did you read that without the N at the end, as the familiar phrase "lay down the law"? Good! Then the clue has done its job at tricking you a little bit.
- 1D: Tips in a gentlemanly manner] (DOFFS). As in tipping or doffing one's hat. SethG, are you familiar with doffing one's hat?
- 37D: Hard rain? (SLEET). It's hard because it's frozen, you see. You know, a lot of the time SLEET gets clued as a winter precipitation, but in Chicago and the Upper Midwest, sleet is rarely seen in the winter. It's not warm enough to sleet. We just get snow. Last winter was weirdly warm and we did have sleet once or twice.
- 45D: Point in math class? (DECIMAL). Ah, yes, the handy decimal point.
- 50D: Foiled villain's shout ("CURSES!"). This is a perfect clue/answer to include in a mustache-themed puzzle because kids love acting out all the parts in that "I can't pay the rent"/"You must pay the rent" play: