Theme: Covert Ops — Theme answers have the letter string OPS hidden (i.e., covertly placed) in them.
- 18A: Jam on the brakes (STOP SHORT).
- 23A: Soft court stroke (DROPSHOT).
- 38A: Small family businesses (MOM AND POP STORES).
- 49A: Stir-fried dish (CHOP SUEY).
- 59A: Hush-hush activities, briefly, and a hint to the hidden theme in 18-, 23-, 38- and 49-Across (COVERT OPS).
Poi is a Hawaiian word for the primary Polynesian staple food made from the corm of the kalo plant (known widely as taro). Poi is produced by mashing the cooked corm (baked or steamed) to a highly viscous fluid. Water is added during mashing and again just before eating, to achieve a desired consistency, which can range from liquid to dough-like (poi can be known as two-finger or three-finger, alluding to how many fingers you would have to use to eat it, depending on its consistency).So now we know!
This was a fun puzzle to solve. I got super frustrated with myself because I kept plugging in answers I thought were easy without checking the crosses and they turned out to be wrong.
- 21A: Go astray (SIN). I had err.
- 49A: Stir-fried dish (CHOP SUEY). I don't really know if chow mein is a stir-fried dish, but with the CHO in place, it looked like a reasonable answer.
- 3D: Big name in gas (AMOCO). Mobil.
- 6D: Rodeo rope (LASSO). This is funny. Whenever the correct answer is riata, nine times out of ten I'll enter LASSO. Today I did the opposite.
- 12D: Swing set site (YARD). I tried park.
- 1A: Athenian with harsh laws (DRACO). Whence the term Draconian.
- 10A: Hip-hop mogul who married Beyoncé (JAY-Z). Even if you don't like rap (and I know some of you don't), you have to know this guy. The guy is ridiculously successful and is married to a ridiculously successful woman.
- 22A: Press conf. format (Q AND A). This is what we sometimes call and amerpsandwich. Other ampersandwiches you'll see in crosswords are R AND R (rest and relaxation), R AND B (rhythm and blues), and A AND E (the Arts and Entertainment network). They're difficult to parse if you're not used to seeing them. But now you're prepared!
- 27A: Colorfully patterned fabric (PAISLEY). Awesome. Another excuse to post a video of one of my very favorite performers out there. I'm gonna go with an oldie but goodie today.
- 34A: RCA Victor pooch (NIPPER). Weren't we just talking about NIPPER? Yep, it was back on September 15.
- 43A: Fast time (LENT). Tricky clue! More, please!
- 44A: Gander (LOOK-SEE). Both words are so ... I don't know, old-fashioned? Doesn't seem like you could use them non-ironically without being considered a little on the weird side.
- 48A: World Series mo. (OCT.). I'll admit I don't follow baseball all that closely throughout the year, but when the post-season starts, it's hard to stay away. Especially when there are nail-biters like Tuesday's Tigers/Twins game. Wow! That was exciting!
- 1D: "Judge __": Stallone film (DREDD). Misspelled it Dread at first.
- 61A: Magician Henning et al. (DOUGS). What other famous Dougs can we come up with? Off the top of my head, the only one I can think of is Doug Williams. And that's pretty old skool.
- 30D: Eddie of the '40s-'50s Senators (YOST). No idea.
- 51D: "Star Trek" communications officer (UHURA). Mispelled it Uhuru but caught it from the cross.
- 56D: Eye part containing the iris (UVEA). Future Crosswordese 101 lesson.