Feb 22, 2018

Thursday February 22 2018 Mark McClain

Theme: Timber Trickery - as neatly explained by the reveal, but can you see the wood for the trees?

63A. Primitive area, and what's literally found in this puzzle's circles : BACKWOODS

The circled letters, reading backwards, contain the timber:

17A. Longtime PBS news anchor : JIM LEHRER. Elm. Most of the elm trees in the UK were wiped out by an outbreak of Dutch Elm disease brought into the country by a shipment of logs from Canada. It literally changed the face of the country.

23A. Site for a railroad signal : GRADE CROSSING. Cedar. Moths hate cedar, hence the cedar planks in your sock drawer to stop the buggers from chewing holes in them. The term "grade crossing" was new to me when I moved to the US. I knew them as "level crossings".

39A. Statistic including farmers and their neighbors : RURAL POPULATION. Poplar. Here's a fine stand of them on a roadside in France:

51A. Kielbasa : POLISH SAUSAGE. Ash. Most baseball bats are made of ash, although MLB also sanctions maple, hickory and bamboo.

Nice theme and nice crunchy theme entries concealing the wood. This was quite a challenge for me for some reason, I had to stare down the north-west corner for some time before I started to unravel the mystery up there. Let's see what else we've got:


1. Word with rose or road : BED

4. AMA part: Abbr. : ASSOC. American Medical Association.

9. __ Bornes: card game : MILLE. I finally remembered this from a prior crossword. The NE corner gave me a lot of trouble today. It translates from the French as "Thousand Milestones" according to my French colleague, but the French name is used for the English version.

14. Caen comrade : AMI

15. Thick-skinned herbivore : RHINO. Is the "-ceros" redundant now?

16. Big Apple stage honors : OBIES. I simply could not remember this. Off-Broadway awards, hence the name. The Tony awards are for Broadway theater.

19. Open, in a way : UNZIP.

20. Delon of cinéma : ALAIN. Came easily, but I'm not sure I've seen any of his movies.

21. Exactas, e.g. : BETS. Pick the horses to win and place, in exact order (hence exacta). An "exacta box" bet allows the horses to come in any order, which rather blows the "exacta" definition.

30. Part of __ : A SET

31. Hawk or eagle : RAPTOR

32. Tic-toe link : TAC

35. "That was close!" : PHEW!

38. Buckwheat dish : KASHA. Food! Putting "PASTA" here didn't exactly help matters in this section of the puzzle. Kasha can refer to the grain itself, or the porridge-like dish made from it.

43. "25" album maker : ADELE. Very talented artist. She won the "Album of the Year" Grammy for this one.

44. Wedding invitation encl. : SASE.
45. Yellowknife is its cap. : NWT. Canada's Northwest Territories.

46. Mournful artwork : PIETAS. Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus in Christian art. The most famous is the Michelangelo sculpture in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

48. Abhor : HATE

55. Anorak part : HOOD.

56. Really cool place to live? : IGLOO. Nice clue.

59. Grouchy look : SCOWL

66. Ventricular outlet : AORTA

67. Thar Desert country : INDIA. Never heard of it, so thank you, crosses. It forms part of the natural border between India and Pakistan.

68. JFK Library architect : PEI. Nailed it! Thank you, crosswords past.

69. 180-degree river bend : OXBOW. When a meander breaks through from one side of the loop to the other, the remains is an oxbow lake.

70. __ Heights: Mideast region : GOLAN

71. Serpentine letter : ESS


1. Mexicali's locale : BAJA. Baja California. The town on the other side of the US/Mexico border is Calexico, fittingly.

2. Oscar winner Jannings : EMIL. More crosses to the rescue.

3. Joltin' Joe : DIMAG. I was all down the caffeine route with this one, and couldn't find anything to fit. It didn't help that I'd never heard the "DiMag" moniker before. Writing this up, I just went to do a Google search, and DiMaggio doesn't show up until half-way down the second page. I think that might be a little obscure for non-Yankees fans.

4. Bull-riding venues : ARENAS

5. Warning to a chatty theatergoer : SHH!

6. Chivalrous title : SIR

7. Year not designated as such until centuries later : ONE BC. ONE and wait for the crosses. It could quite easily be ONE AD.

8. Kitchen gizmo : CORER. I've got a lot of kitchen gizmos, but I don't own one of these things. I'm amused that the soundalike Iron Chef Cat Cora is sitting next to moussaka, one of her go-to dish styles. She has a Greek background.

9. Greek menu staple : MOUSSAKA. Food! Eggplant-layered ground lamb dish.

10. Hebrew : Ben :: Arabic : __ : IBN. I tried BIN first which again messed me up in the North-east.

11. Lemon on "30 Rock" : LIZ. Crosses all the way. I was at a meeting at 30 Rock last week - here's the rather gloomy view out of the window of the conference room.

12. Floral neckwear : LEI

13. Clairvoyant's gift : ESP. Extra-sensory perception.

18. Turkish dough : LIRA. I can never remember LIRA or LIRE. I wait for the cross.

22. Only Canadian MLB team : TOR. The Toronto Blue Jays.

24. "Murder on the Orient Express" (2017) actor : DEPP. I didn't see the movie, so solid crosses necessary.

25. Value system : ETHOS

26. Irritated words : SPAT

27. "__ the bag" : IT'S IN

28. "Not gonna happen" : NO HOW. Tried NO WAY, was wrong.

29. Researcher's request : GRANT

32. "The Sound of Music" name : TRAPP. Strictly, the name is actually Von Trapp, but it's pretty obvious what is being asked for here.

33. Sound : AUDIO

34. Fish basket : CREEL. One of these things:

36. #TestforRadon org. : E.P.A. Not heard the hashtag before, but it didn't take a lot of figuring out.

37. Chinese martial arts : WUSHU. Learning moment for me. Looks pretty dangerous!

40. Meter opening? : ALTI-

41. Rule governing intentional walks? : LEASH LAW. Nice one. I enjoyed the punning here.

42. Open fields : LEAS

47. "Ray Donovan" network, briefly : SHO. I had the "O" and was tempted by HBO, but I refrained from jumping in with both feet.

49. Ang Lee's birthplace : TAIWAN

50. Its main product was originally given the portmanteau name "Froffles" : EGGO. French toast and waffles. Who knew?

52. Ferber novel : SO BIG

53. Hersey's "A Bell for __" : ADANO. A crossword staple. Has anyone actually read this book?

54. Skip church? : ELOPE. Nice one. Skip the church wedding.

57. Pindaric verses : ODES. Pindaric: "Relating to or characteristic of the Greek lyric poet Pindar or his works".

"I will not steep my speech 
in lies; the test of any man lies in action."

58. Malady suffix : -OSIS

59. __ Paulo : SÃO

60. Regatta chief : COX. The smallest and lightest person you can find to steer the boat, and, optionally, depending on experience, call the stroke rate.

61. Marble, e.g. : ORB

62. Geneva-based commerce gp. : W.T.O. World Trade Organization.

64. XLV x X : CDL. Simple Roman math. For some reason it always takes me a minute to dig the letter for "500" out of my head.

65. Sedona, for one : KIA. Took me a while to cotton on to this one. Nice misdirection.

That about wraps it up for this week. I've been on terra firma this week which makes a nice change. Back in the air next week though!

And  ... here's the grid ....!