Hey, Northern Californians! There's a puzzle event in your area this weekend, the Silicon Valley Puzzle Weekend at the Morgan Hill Library. That link details the weekend's workshops (Saturday) and competitions (Sunday), and you can register here. There are events for both kids and adults, covering crosswords, sudoku, cryptic crosswords, logic puzzles, and word puzzles. Also on the schedule: a constructors panel featuring seasoned crossworders Byron Walden, Tyler Hinman, Andrea Carla Michaels, and Mark Diehl; a talk about crosswordese with Mark Diehl; and more. If you're in the area and you've never attended a puzzle even before, we encourage you to head to Morgan Hill this weekend.
THEME: "Flower Power"—Each of six rhyming word pairs starts with a different category of plant, ergo NURSERY RHYMES or "rhymes for plants grown in a nursery"
It's a well-thought-out seven-piece theme, but it didn't grab me like kudzu tendrils. The large number of (shortish) theme entries fragmented the grid into lots of small sections with 23 three-letter answers. Those include some solid threes (MAR, JIF, AHA, GYM, NUB, RYE) and shortenings (PEC, UKE, BIZ), but also plenty of abbreviations (GED, MSS, plural G.E.'S, LAA, GAO, au courant GPS, SMU), crosswordese (ORT, EKE, FER, Mauna LOA), and foreign words (MER, EAU with a Wisconsin clue, ORO). Stay tuned for highlights after this message from our thematic sponsor.
- 17A: Longing for a fronded plant? (FERN YEARN). Not crazy about YEARN used as a noun. Yearning is the noun.
- 21A: Zinfandel, but not sake? (VINE WINE). Sake is brewed from rice, not grapes, and grapes grow on vines. Sake is apparently not really a wine even though it's sometimes called "rice wine," as it's brewed more like beer rather than made from fermented fruit. (So saith Wikipedia.)
- 23A: Oxygen emanating from a lawn? (GRASS GAS). Anyone else have dope and flatulence on their mind now?
- 55A: Steep, e.g.? (HERB VERB). Isn't HERB, like GRASS, slang for marijuana? HERB VERB could be clued by the less botanically minded as [Mellow out] or [Have the munchies].
- 57A: Like areas above the timberline? (TREE FREE). Tree Brie, tree glee, tree ski...
- 61A: Group devoted to small, woody plants? (SHRUB CLUB).
- 37A: Mother Goose offerings, or in a different sense, this puzzle's title (NURSERY RHYMES). The meaning of "nursery rhymes" is reinterpreted as rhymes for categories of plants grown in the nursery.
- 66A: "I Kissed __": Katy Perry hit (A GIRL). PuzzleGirl said she liked this one. Me, I grouped it with the other two-word partials, HE HAD and ERE WE. I...don't know the song. Yes, I know it was a runaway hit a couple years ago. Don't care. Maybe you will like it. My husband just asked me to turn it off!
- 9D: "Riders of the Purple Sage" author (ZANE GREY). My grandma read some Zane Grey. Westerns are not my cup of tea, but you gotta appreciate a full name as a crossword answer, especially one with a Z in it.
- 38D: Winter wonderland creator (SNOWFALL). It's a lovely word unless it's January, there's no end in sight to winter, and you are so over snow.
- 46D: Bring to a boil? (ENRAGE). Love the clue.
Crosswordese 101: EGESTS is one of those words we hardly ever encounter outside of crosswords. Am I right? When's the last time you used the word? The clue is usually along the lines of 27A: Spews—spews out, casts out, or discharges. You may be thinking that volcanoes egest lava. Guess what? The word seems to specifically apply to discharging or excreting from the body (opposite of ingest). Yes, that's right: DEFECATE would flunk the crossword breakfast test, but EGEST skates right in because most people don't know the bodily substance definition. It can also refer to sweating, peeing, and barfing. Eww!
Everything Else — 1A: Bridges of "The Big Lebowski" (JEFF); 5A: River projects (DAMS); 9A: Ritz cracker alternative (ZESTA); 14A: Swedish furniture giant (IKEA); 15A: Ostrich cousin (RHEA); 16A: Neighborhoods (AREAS); 17A: Longing for a fronded plant? (FERN YEARN); 19A: Connection (NEXUS); 20A: H.S. dropout's test (GED); 21A: Zinfandel, but not sake? (VINE WINE); 23A: Oxygen emanating from a lawn? (GRASS GAS); 27A: Spews (EGESTS); 28A: Bench press target, briefly (PEC); 29A: Côte d'Azur view (MER); 30A: Scratch or dent (MAR); 31A: Ed.'s pile (MSS); 32A: Rural skyline cylinder (SILO); 34A: Rock collection specimens (AGATES); 37A: Mother Goose offerings, or in a different sense, this puzzle's title (NURSERY RHYMES); 42A: Cloverleaf element (ON-RAMP); 43A: Follower of once? (UPON); 45A: Some TVs (GES); 48A: Scrap for Spot (ORT); 49A: Anaheim team, on scoreboards (LAA); 52A: __ Claire, Wisconsin (EAU); 53A: Pair of blows (ONE TWO); 55A: Steep, e.g.? (HERB VERB); 57A: Like areas above the timberline? (TREE FREE); 59A: Govt. auditing gp. (GAO); 60A: Fruit soda brand (FANTA); 61A: Group devoted to small, woody plants? (SHRUB CLUB); 66A: "I Kissed __": Katy Perry hit (A GIRL); 67A: Diggs of "Private Practice" (TAYE); 68A: Golfer Isao (AOKI); 69A: Kidney-related (RENAL); 70A: Fruity drinks (ADES); 71A: Joan at Woodstock (BAEZ); 1D: Choice of "Choosy moms," in ads (JIF); 2D: Squeeze (out) (EKE); 3D: Not agin (FER); 4D: Werewolf's weapons (FANGS); 5D: Channel maintenance machine (DREDGE); 6D: Cry of realization (AHA); 7D: Griffin and others (MERVS); 8D: Cleaning product prefix (SANI-); 9D: "Riders of the Purple Sage" author (ZANE GREY); 10D: "Maid of Athens, __ part": Byron (ERE WE); 11D: Discrimination fought by suffragists (SEXISM); 12D: Talks trash to (TAUNTS); 13D: Size up (ASSESS); 18D: Polite country affirmative (YES'M); 22D: Not o'er ('NEATH); 23D: Modern rental car feature, briefly (GPS); 24D: Hold back (REIN); 25D: Scopes Trial gp. (ACLU); 26D: Turkish mount (ARARAT); 30D: Christie heroine (MARPLE); 33D: Plata counterpart (ORO); 35D: Place where sweaters get fit? (GYM); 36D: The Mustangs of coll. football (SMU); 38D: Winter wonderland creator (SNOWFALL); 39D: Shortstop's boot (ERROR); 40D: Foil alternative (ÉPÉE); 41D: Fly high (SOAR); 44D: Worn-down pencil (NUB); 45D: Was successful (GOT FAR); 46D: Bring to a boil? (ENRAGE); 47D: Shown to a seat (SEEN IN); 50D: Pleads in court (ARGUES); 51D: Simple poetry pattern (ABAB); 54D: Aquarium denizen (TETRA); 55D: "__ it coming": "Serves him right" (HE HAD); 56D: Eng. lesson (VOCAB.); 58D: "¿Cómo __ usted?" (ESTA); 62D: Bakery product (RYE); 63D: Mauna __ (LOA); 64D: Strummed strings (UKE); 65D: Show __ (BIZ).