Theme: Eight Is Enough — Add the letters ate to the last word of each of eight (eight!) theme answers to create a new word, the beginning of which is spelled differently than the original word, if that makes any sense. It's complicated is what I'm saying.
Crosswordese 101: There are two three-letter sports figures you need to know and one of theme appears in today's puzzle at 30D: Slugger Mel OTT. If you don't know much (or anything) about sports, I'm sorry to tell you that the other one you need to know is hockey legend Bobby ORR. Amazingly similar, right? Well, the names are, but the guys aren't. Mel OTT was a right fielder for the New York Giants from 1926 to 1947. He batted left and threw right. He was the first National League player to hit more than 500 home runs. For crossword solving purposes, you also need to know a few more things about him: (1) he is a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York; (2) he was born in Louisiana, (3) he was sometimes called "Master Melvin," and (4) during his career, the stadium the Giants played in was know as "The Polo Grounds." Bobby ORR, on the other hand, is a retired Canadian hockey player, who played virtually all of his career with the Boston Bruins. (He was on the Chicago Black Hawks' roster for the two seasons prior to his retirement, but during that time, he was injured and didn't actually play.) Here's what you need to know about him: (1) his career spanned the 1960s and 1970s; (2) the Bruins played at Boston Garden; (3) he was Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year in 1970; (4) he is a multiple-time winner of three of the NHL's highest awards: the Conn Smythe, Norris, and Art Ross Trophies; and (5) he was a teammate of Phil Esposito. Unfortunately, both of these athletes wore #4, so you can't use that as a rhyme for ORR to help you remember which one he is. Sorry.
Mr. Naddor, we meet again! This is one of those puzzles where the theme didn't help me at all while I was solving, but when I figured it out afterward, I was super impressed. And it wasn't until I started typing this up that I noticed the EIGHT theme answers, which makes it even better. Very ambitious and nicely executed!
- 18A: *"Unforgettable" singer (NAT "KING" COLE). Collate.
- 24A: *Cold War European (WEST GERMAN). Germinate.
- 31A: *1940s-'60s Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback (Y. A. TITTLE). Tittilate.
- 40A: *Branch source (TREE TRUNK). Truncate.
- 42A: *Florida city near Fort Myers (CAPE CORAL). Correlate.
- 48A: *House speaker before Newt Gingrich (TOM FOLEY). Foliate.
- 58A: *Covered with black dots (FLY-SPECKED). Spectate. (Is this a word?)
- 67A: *1976 Olympic decathlon champ (BRUCE JENNER). Generate.
- 73A: Word that homophonically forms a familiar word when attached to the end of the answer to each starred clue (ATE).
Stuff that threw me off:
- 14A: Rock band with a fishy name (EELS). Never heard of them, but I heard from a very reliable source that one of their songs is featured in "Wordplay":
- 63A: Bridge call (I PASS). For 55D, [1970 Poitier title role], I originally had Tubbs instead of TIBBS — which is pretty hilarious now that I think about it —but it really messed me up on the bridge thing. Try parsing upass and let me know how that works for you.
- 75A: "Shoot!" (ASK). Wanted drat or dang or something along those lines.
- 4D: Deadpan Stein (BEN). I know this guy. Loved his game show. Don't agree with his politics, but think, in general, he's hilarious. Could. Not. Remember. His. Name. Man, it sucks getting old.
- 5D: Assayer's substance (REAGENT). Is this something science-y? Because I don't know any science-y stuff.
- 11D: Enter again (RELOG). Wanted re-key.
- 69D: Seoul soldier (ROK). ROK stands for Republic of Korea. Does anyone know (or care) why it's also a word for a soldier?
- 20A: Fit for drafting (ONE-A). For the Selective Service System, Class 1-A means "Available for unrestricted military service."
- 39A: G.I. food in a plastic pouch (MRE). Covered in a previous Crosswordese 101 lesson.
- 55A: Vegan's purchase (TOFU). As far as crossword puzzles are concerned, the only thing vegans eat is tofu.
- 70A: Soft shoe, briefly (MOC). Short for moccasin.
- 72A: Houston pro, to fans ('STRO). Can someone please confirm that this abomination is actually used by fans of the team. To me it sounds like when people say 'za for pizza. It's just ... not right.
- 6D: Union station? (ALTAR). A place where a union (i.e., wedding) takes place.
- 15D: 1% alternative (SKIM). Milk!
- 19D: Like some highlighted text: Abbr. (ITAL). This is a great clue for italic and here's why. It's true. Once you've italicized some text, that's all you need to do! It's highlighted! You don't need to, say, underline it once it's italicized. In fact, if you do, it's just wrong. See how wrong that looks? jeff in chicago, are you here? You'll back me up on this, right?
- 21D: Paris possessive (À TOI). French!
- 31D: Song spelled with arm motions (YMCA).
- 32D: Composer Khachaturian (ARAM). I always remember this because two years ago I was working on a family history and found that I have a distant relative named Aram. Shortly thereafter, I saw this clue/answer pair in a puzzle and it's stuck with me ever since. How you will remember this guy? I have no idea.
- 34D: Q.E.D. part (ERAT). Latin!
- 53D: M.'s counterpart (MLLE.). More French! M. is Monsieur; Mlle. is Mademoiselle.
Everything Else — 1A: Supplies case (KIT); 4A: Grille cover (BRA); 7A: African hot spot (SAHARA); 13A: Santa __ winds (ANA); 16A: One that got away (ELUDER); 17A: LPGA star Se Ri __ (PAK); 22A: Pace (GAIT); 23A: Goodyear's home (AKRON); 27A: Nintendo rival (SEGA); 28A: Any day now (SOON); 29A: Spoils (LOOT); 35A: Den music setup (STEREO); 46A: Reno-to-Boise dir. (NNE); 47A: Heineken brand (AMSTEL); 52A: Wander (ROAM); 54A: Gaseous: Pref. (AERI); 65A: Spring (LEAP); 66A: Formal intro? (SEMI); 71A: Fruit in a split (BANANA); 74A: Crude cabin (SHANTY); 76A: "L.A. Law" actress (DEY); 2D: Cockamamie (INANE); 3D: Initiates action (TAKESSTEPS); 7D: McCain, e.g.: Abbr. (SEN); 8D: Pond organism (ALGA); 10D: Really dig (ADORE); 12D: Where the action is (ARENA); 25D: Received (GOT); 26D: Wine bouquet (NOSE); 33D: USPS delivery (LTR); 37D: Feminine suffix (ENNE); 38D: __-dokey (OKEY); 41D: "Xanadu" rock gp. (ELO); 43D: Ancient Italian (ETRUSCAN); 44D: Corporate VIP (CEO); 45D: Norway's patron (OLAF); 49D: Rand McNally staff (MAPPERS); 50D: Co-pay, for instance (FEE); 51D: Tolkien henchmen (ORCS); 56D: Talk show giant (OPRAH); 57D: Flora's partner (FAUNA); 59D: Hankerings (YENS); 60D: Red suit wearer (SANTA); 61D: Ham it up (EMOTE); 62D: Uncertain (DICEY); 64D: Transmitted (SENT); 68D: Crow family bird (JAY).