THEME: Passing Stranger — "R" added to end of phrase that end in "...GE," creating wacky phrases, etc.
Hey, who *doesn't* love a mess of -ER words in their puzzle!?
I have nothing to say about this puzzle that I haven't said in the past about puzzles of this type, except this seems the weakest example of "add-a-letter" I've seen in a while. RADAR and MERIT don't even work in the new phrases. Are they supposed to be adjectives? Love the phrase MERIT BADGER, but ... is that a BADGER who MERITs ... something? [Earn a burrowing critter] might have worked better. A RANGER with a RADAR is a RADAR RANGER. Yeah, OK. The whole concept is just so dreary. Would be nice if the theme answers popped. But no. Find simple wordplay gimmick, replicate 5 times regardless of snazziness of resulting answers, and done. Also, serious cheater square action (in middle, at top and bottom) makes for very black (40 squares) puzzle with abundance of short (ergo not too interesting) fill.
- 17A: Park official who tickets speeding bears? (RADAR RANGER) — why are the "bears" speeding? Why are "bears" in this clue? To add "humor?"
- 22A: Smallest allowable bet? (MINIMUM WAGER) — so straightforward that if it weren't for the "?" I wouldn't know there was anything Wacky about it.
- 35A: Steals a plumbing supply? (TAKES THE PLUNGER)
- 45A: San Fernando creator of fake van Goghs? (VALLEY FORGER) — for non-SoCal'ers (how's that for a roll-your-own word?) who don't know: The San Fernando Valley is just "The Valley" in California. It's the VALLEY in the concept / song / movie "VALLEY GIRL"
- 53A: Burrowing critter cited for excellence? (MERIT BADGER)
Crosswordese 101: EROSE (47D: Irregularly notched) — despite its appearance, not a virtual flower such as you might send someone on his/her birthday. EROSE is used particularly in reference to leaves. Learned it from crosswords. Only ever seen it in crosswords. You will see it again. In terms of frequency, it's no ERASE (that's nearby: 52A: They help get the lead out => ERASERS), but it's definitely a repeater. File it away!
- 3D: Stereotypical pratfall cause (BANANA SKIN) — source of almost 100% of the resistance in today's puzzle. Easily dropped in the more common and therefore better BANANA PEEL, and then had fits trying to get the West to work out. --PHY for 31A: Like some stockings!? WTF? (actual answer, MESHY ... meriting a slightly less outraged "WTF?")
- 39A: Cubist Juan (GRIS) — part of that messed-up West. Wanted MIRO or SERT.
- 23D: Sweet-talk (WHEEDLE) — LOVE the word WHEEDLE, but associate "sweet-talk" with courtship and other forms of affectionate persuasion, while I associate WHEEDLE with used-car selling/buying.
- 46D: Hoods with safe jobs? (YEGGS) — damn, now I want to go back and make this my Crosswordese 101 entry. I know YEGG well from collecting old crime fiction. YEGGS are safecrackers.
See you Monday,
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