This was a little tougher than we've seen this week, and that's a welcome change. I didn't struggly mightily or anything, but I did have to chip away at a few sections. I didn't know that FERNS don't have seeds (22A: Seedless greenhouse denizens) or that CHARD is a 27A: Vitamin K source. And I predictably misspelled NAPOLEON in NAPOLEON COMPLEX (14A: Source of overcompensating bravado). I always want that second O to be an A. What's up with that?
The southeast corner held me up for quite a while. I threw in BURNS (42D: Seethes) and DEAN (45D: Academic list keeper) easily enough, but had a lot of trouble with everything else down there. ECHOER is an ugly word (38D: Parrot), but I think it's the only real clunker in the grid. But it's right next to MAYFLY (39D: Bass prey) which I love despite the fact that I needed every single cross to get it. So that kinda helps cover up the clunkiness.
Other WTFs for me today include:
- 13D: Crystalline gypsum variety (SELENITE). If you say so!
- 44A: Actress Palmer (LILLI). Never heard of her. Of course as soon as I type that, I look her up on Wikipedia and some very very faint bells start ringing in the back of my head. I've probably seen her in a puzzle before.
- 32D: Air pressure unit (MILLIBAR). Y'all know I'm not real sciencey, right?
- 26A: Declaration in a playground game (NOT IT). I'm a big fan of the colloquial phrases. Especially if they're juvenile.
- 28A: Over (FINITO). This word must be accompanied by dramatic hand gestures. But you knew that.
- 32A: One who doesn't do Windows? (MAC USER). Cute clue.
- 42A: Florida's __ Chica Key (BOCA). I've never heard of this place but I love the way it sounds.
- 50A: Impertinent (SNIPPY).
- 7D: Hobby involving launches (ROCKETRY). Because I had misspelled NAPOLEON, this was looking like RACKE*** for a while. Yikes!
- 16D: Unknown (X-FACTOR). It's kinda cool, kinda mysterious, and it's got an X. Win-win-win!
- 36D: Meager (PALTRY). Is this word used to describe anything other than a "sum"?
- 48D: Sch. with a yearbook called the Gumbo (LSU). HAha! Totally inferrable and simultaneously hilarious!
Crosswordese 101: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is, indeed an 47D: Engineering sch. on the Hudson. Clues for RPI will often reference Troy, N.Y. (which is considered "upstate" New York). Occasionally, it's helpful to know that its sports teams are known as the Engineers. Wikipedia tells me RPI is "the oldest technological university in the English-speaking world." The reason I've heard of it? Tyler Hinman went there.
Other crosswordese in the puzzle that we've already covered:
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Everything Else — 1A: One in a coup group (USURPER); 8A: Tenochtitl·n founders (AZTECS); 17A: Stay away (DISTANCE ONESELF); 19A: Carpenter with drums (KAREN); 20A: Van Halen's "Somebody Get __ Doctor" (ME A); 23A: Judicial seat (BANC); 24A: Flare, maybe (SOS); 25A: Makes an example of (CITES); 29A: Yin and yang, e.g. (DUALITY); 33A: Native Alaskans (INUITS); 34A: Seemingly charmed entrepreneur (MIDAS); 35A: Rival of Sparta (ARGOS); 36A: Like unsorted mail (PILED); 37A: Beaut (GEM); 40A: Course objectives for many (PARS); 43A: Ophelia's niece, in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (EVA); 45A: Peer's realm, perhaps (DUCHY); 46A: 2009 addition to Wimbledon's Centre Court (RETRACTABLE ROOF); 49A: Like a master criminal (SLIPPERY AS AN EEL); 51A: Loses all its water (RUNS DRY); 1D: Annuls (UNDOES); 2D: Declined (SAID NO); 3D: Sports page headline grabbers (UPSETS); 4D: Turning part (ROTOR); 5D: Design (PLAN); 6D: Morn's opposite (E'EN); 8D: Nuts in cupules (ACORNS); 9D: Tunes (out) (ZONES); 11D: Mini-albums, for short (EPS); 12D: Showy arbor vine (CLEMATIS); 15D: Approached (NEARED); 22D: Edicts (FIATS); 23D: Employee of the Month incentive (BONUS); 25D: Markers (CHITS); 26D: Battery acronym (NICAD); 27D: Madison Avenue honors (CLIOS); 28D: Diminishes (FADES); 29D: Nursery supply (DIAPERS); 30D: Figures out (UNRAVELS); 31D: With a browned crust, as potatoes (AU GRATIN); 34D: First woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (MILLAY); 37D: Expand the admission pool, in a way (GO CO-ED); 41D: Arm wrestler's pride, as it's commonly called (BICEP); 44D: Reindeer herder (LAPP).