Thursday, May 26, 2022, Blake Slonecker



Armed and Quite Punny

There is a first time for everything, and just like one of my fellow bloggers admitted a week or so back, this is the first time I was stumped by two clues.  But upon loading the HTML listing all the clues and fill, I did a head slap for missing a clever pun on a pluralized cephalopod (see 8D below).  Had I sussed it, I would have simply learned that the crossing natick was a new bit of slang for the "fuzz".

Our constructor today Blake Slonecker, is an LA Times veteran, having debuted on Christmas Day, 2019.  He has also had puzzles published in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Universal Crossword.  In this puzzle he presents us with a visual theme with the payloads for the 8 themers in carefully arranged triplets of  circles stacked in two rows.  Given the obscurity of the reveal clue (which I did happen to know), I think the theme would be well-nigh impossible to guess without the circles (apologies of course to AnonymousDNLC).  As the reveal for the puzzle is the trickiest one I've ever seen, I think it's best to start with the grid, followed by the theme clue explanations, and then the reveal explanation (which non-geeks might want to skip!)

Here are the themers, which I've arranged a bit out of order to correspond to the visual arrangement of the circled payloads shown above:

17A. Round bakeware:   TUBE PANS.  Used to make bundt cakes.
20A Only unanimous Baseball Hall of Fame electee:  RIVERA.  Mariano RIVERAHere he is at the top of the list.

19A. One score:  TWENTY.  As in "Four score and 7 years ago ...".  Let us never forget.
21A. Ride the waves:  BODY SURF.  "Oh fun!"

54A. Impishness: MISCHIEFHere's the theme music for Til Eulenspiegel (40 sec), classical music's favorite imp.
58A. Sign up: ENLIST.  I've decided to stop volunteering for things.
57A. Use a pinch runner for, e.g.:    SUB OUTThe rules on pinch runners.
59A. Club that may get heckled when they take the field: AWAY TEAMBoston flies so many fans into Camden Yards in Baltimore that the Orioles can even get heckled when they play at home.

Here's the reveal, which I'll try to explain as simply as possible.  If your eyes glazed over when you read it, you may want to go directly to the Across clues.

34A. Digital ledger that stores non-fungible tokens, and what can be found in each set of shaded squares: BLOCKCHAIN.  That is each themer circle sextet is a franchised eatery: PANERA, WENDYS, CHILIS, and SUBWAY, i.e. a "BLOCKED CHAIN".

In a nutshell a digital ledger distributes accounting books (electronic "blocks" of records) across a network, instead of storing them in a central location such as a bank.  This revolutionary technology provides a high level of redundancy, makes the current record values simultaneously visible to all interested parties, and virtually impervious to tampering. My thanks to Teri for finding this relatively simple, "top-down" explanation for the term blockchain

The esoteric term non-fungible tokens is a rather obscure example of something that can be stored in a blockchain, the digital currency Bitcoin being a much more familiar one.  Last Friday a single  Bitcoin was valued at 29,178.50 USD (dropping about $1K while I was writing this review).  Here's what it's worth today.

For those of you who are interested, a non-fungible token (NFT) is IMHO something bordering on P.T. Barnum's dream. NFTs are used primarily for selling digital art, e.g. something as simple as an easily copied JPEG or video.  But an "original" version of the artwork can be declared, registered, and even traded via digital ledgers.  While this sounds like a fool's game, some NFTs are selling for literally millions of dollars.  They seem in someways analogous to Zuckerberg's virtual reality Metaverse:  both seem to derive their value from the fact that people value them.

Crossword puzzles are blockchains too and we still have lots more blocks to fill:


1. Spanish pronoun: ESO.  Today's Spanish lesson.

4. "Ohio" quartet, briefly: CSNYCrosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.  Ohio was an anthem of the 60s: "Four dead in Ohio"; and today: Ten dead in Buffalo (video rated PG):

8. "Sounds like a hoot": OH FUN. E.g. body surfing?

13. Plastic fig.?: APRAnnual Percentage Rate on a credit card.

14. "Salt Fat __ Heat": Samin Nosrat cookbook: ACIDThis book gets rave reviews on Amazon, but before you buy it read some of the one and two star reviews.  As a hypertensive trying to lose weight this book already has two strikes against it for me. 

15. Pen: CORRAL.  Thought it might be a verb at first, e.g. to AUTHOR.  But it's an enclosure for large animals.

23. Main line: ARTERY.  E.g. the AORTA, the I10, or the I95.

24. Coppers: PO-PO.  Did not know this slang for the police.  Hyphenation per the Oxford Languages Dictionary.

25. Coastal inlet: RIA.  The Chesapeake Bay is one big RIA of RIAS.

26. __ review: PEER.  The process academics use for vetting journal articles.

27. Bouquet __: GARNI.  A bundle of herbs used to flavor a soup or stew.

29. Small bit: SPECK.  Or a MOTE.

31. Small swirl: EDDY.

32. Mine lode: ORE. Today's geology lesson.

33. Genève's land: SUISSELake Geneva in Switzerland.

38. On the same side: ALLIED.  After a long time of going their separate ways, the members of NATO seem to be once again ALLIED on the same side.

41. "That sounds painful": OOF.

42. "Mare of Easttown" Emmy winner Peters: EVANMare of Easttown is an American crime drama limited series created by Brad Ingelsby for HBO.  It stars Kate Winslet as the title character, a detective investigating a murder in a small town near Philadelphia.  Evan Peters received the Emmy for TV Film or Miniseries Supporting Actor of the Year 2021.

46. Fare plans: DIETS.  My fare plan includes no salt.  As all body fluids (animal and vegetable) naturally contain 0.9% Na Cl that's enough for me.

47. __ all'Arrabbiata: PENNEHere's a recipe.

49. Mustard family member: KALE.  Best when fresh.  And it's good for you.

50. Up-in-the-air fig.?: ALT.  As in Altitude, as measured with an altimeter, invented by Paul Kollsman in 1928.

51. Part: ROLE'All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players' (Shakespeare As You Like it Act 2, Scene 7).'  And here it's riffed on by Rush in the song "In the End" from their album "All the World's a Stage" (lyrics) (video rated PG).  A CSO to -T:

52. River from the Himalayas: GANGESAside from providing drinking water and irrigating fields, the Ganges River is extremely important to India's Hindu population for religious reasons as well. The Ganges River is considered their most sacred river, and it is worshiped as the goddess Ganga Ma or "Mother Ganges." 

61. More tart: SOURER.

62. Pixar film set in Radiator Springs: CARS.  Here's the trailer (rated G):

63. Place for "me time": SPA.

64. Itty-bitty: TEENY. WEENY, yellow polka dot, dot, dot

65. Wraps up: ENDS.

66. Chef's meas.: TSP.


1. Alt-rock's Jimmy __ World: EATHere's the story of their first big hit "The Middle".  Here's the video with lyrics.  I didn't think the official video would get past the censors, but it's out there.

2. Urged (on): SPURRED.

3. Went around in circles?: ORBITED.  Something MOONS do around ORBS.

4. Culinary bud: CAPEREverything you ever wanted to know about a CAPER.  Unless of course you're planning to pull off a bank heist.

5. Next-level awesome: SCARY GOODSome urban definitions for SCARY GOOD.

6. NPR legal affairs correspondent Totenberg: NINANina Totenberg is a correspondent for National Public Radio focusing primarily on the activities and politics of the Supreme Court of the United States. Her reports air regularly on NPR's news magazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.

Nina Totenberg
7. Skein units: Abbr.: YDS.  Yards of wool.

8. Army swimmers?: OCTOPI.  Cleverest clue.  Cleverer than me anyway.  Also a clever clue for a very clever animal.

9. Folksy greeting: HOW DO.

10. Glenn of the Eagles: FREY.  This is for our West Coast folks.  Lyrics by  Glen Frey, lead vocals by Don Henley, with Don Felder and Joe Walsh on guitars:

11. Banquet coffeepots: URNS.

12. Essences: NATURES.

16. Liner notes component: LYRICS.  Pet peeve:  recordings (LP, CD, or online) without lyrics.  They are only 50% of the song.

18. All: EVERY BIT.

21. __ vivant: BONBon vivant is literally French for “good living.” The term bon vivant is typically associated with the kind of sociable person who's good at entertaining and can keep the party going with a good story.

22. Imitation: FAKE.  Watch out for the deepfakesWhat are they and how can you spot them?

23. Mimic: APE.  Not so deepfakes.

24. Sch. for tots: PRE K.  As School is abbreviated, so is Kindergarten.

28. Halo piece: ARC.

29. __ generis: SUI.  One of a kind; absolutely unique.  I think you could describe every denizen of the Corner as SUI GENERIS.

30. Woodworker's inconvenience: PINE KNOT.  My father was a woodworker and he used carefully selected "knotty pine" boards to sheath the upper halves of the walls in our living room and downstairs den.  It was inexpensive and he liked the look of the grain and the knots.  With several coats of varnish it took on a golden glow that deepened with age.

33. Protect: SAFEGUARD.

35. French article: LES.  French plural definite article.  LE and LA are the respective masculine and feminine articles, but LES is used for both masculine and feminine nouns.

36. Scoop holder: CONE.  Refers not to something you hang the scoop from (e.g. in a kitchen), but rather what you scoop it into, e.g. ice cream.

37. Snookums: HON.

38. "Whataya Want From Me" singer Lambert: ADAM.   Adam Mitchel Lambert (born January 29, 1982) is an American singer and songwriter. Since 2009, he has sold over 3 million albums and 5 million singles worldwide.  Lambert is known for his dynamic vocal performances that fuse his theatrical training with modern and classic genres.  Here's the clue song:

39. Easter blooms: LILIES.

40. "We should pass": LET'S NOT.  And say we did.

43. Least clear: VAGUEST.

44. Brewpub fixtures: ALE TAPSThese systems can get pretty complicated.  I suggest that you don't sample the merchandise until everything is installed and tested.

45. Old console letters: NESNintendo Entertainment System.

47. "__ Is Not a Luxury": essay by Audre Lorde: POETRYAudrey Geraldine Lorde; February 18, 1934 – November 17, 1992) was an American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist.   She was a passionate, courageous poet, who fought racial injustice all of her life.

Audre Lorde
48. Sprite: ELF.

51. Up: RISEN.

53. Deep space: ABYSSIf you thought of this, you were looking in the wrong direction.  Blake at least meant this 19,714 feet deep canyon.  And if that's not deep enough for you, then you have go under water.  The first and only time humans descended the 36,201 feet to the bottom of the Mariana Trench was more than 50 years ago. In 1960, Jacques Piccard and Navy Lt. Don Walsh reached this goal in a U.S. Navy submersible, a bathyscaphe called the Trieste.

55. Board game with rooms: CLUE.

56. Sign on: HIRE.

57. Cygnet: SWAN.  While Finnish composer Jan Sibelius was writing his 5th Symphony he relates that he went for a walk one morning and saw 16 SWANS flying over his head.  Their trumpeting inspired the majestic theme that he used in the finale (1 min.):

 59. Royal flush card: ACE.

60. Trailhead display: MAP.

As always I thank Teri for proofreading and offering constructive suggestions.