FRIDAY PUZZLE — I predict this puzzle by David Steinberg will be a divisive one for solvers. On the plus side, there are some very crunchy, challenging general-knowledge entries, with tough cluing that might not be in many wheelhouses. On the minus side, there are some very crunchy, challenging general-knowledge entries, with tough cluing that might not be in many wheelhouses.

Let me roll that back for a moment. What I’m saying is that Mr. Steinberg’s puzzle has a lot of stuff in it that you either know or you don’t, and I’m not entirely sure that the crossings will be of much help here. Take 17A, for example. You might or might not know the “1997 Notorious B.I.G. hit,” GOING BACK TO CALI, but if you are trying to get it through the crossings, you had better know what ELOCUTE and FECUND mean, or that a PICA is 12 points, typographically speaking, or what a CELESTA is. And heaven help you if you don’t know that the Lego company is run by the DANES.

And I, personally, missed out on reading “Gil Blas,” so the bottom stack was tough for me, but at least the crossings were a bit easier, so I was able to discover its author, ALAIN-RENÉ LESAGE.

On a separate note, please help me welcome Caitlin Lovinger back tomorrow to the weekend Wordplay columns.

1A: Hi, kids! If LEADER OF THE PACK is a phrase that doesn’t resonate with you as an answer for the clue “Dominant figure,” this song may help you remember it for next time.

32A: This took me a while, because I don’t think of ANGORA as a relative to cashmere. One fiber is from a rabbit and one is from a goat. They’re both soft and hairy. Maybe that’s the relationship.

45A: The wording of the clue, “‘If u ask me …’” is a hint that the answer should be text speak. The answer is IMO, which stands for “In My Opinion.”

51A: Cute. “New toy?” is not what you got for Christmas, but hints at a newborn toy breed of dog, so the answer is PUP.

59A: This is a clue that nicely evokes the answer. It’s not Inception, mind you, but “Things that contain 59-Across that contain 59-Across that …” is MATRYOSHKA DOLLS.

26D: This was a total guess on my part. When someone thanks me in French for doing something nice for them, I answer “de rien,” which means “It’s nothing.” That’s the only way I’ve ever heard the French version of “You’re welcome.” Nevertheless, the phrase in this puzzle is “Je vous en PRIE.”

57D: Once again, we need to look at a specific word in the clue “Pairs of nines?” — in this case “nines” — and figure out where the pair is. There are two Ns in the word, so the answer is the written out version of the letter, or ENS.

This puzzle started as just a top stack that I’d fallen in love with. The seed was GOING BACK TO CALI, though ALFA ROMEO SPIDER was high on my list as well.

I initially wasn’t making much headway in the bottom, so I set the puzzle aside for a while. Eventually I picked it back up again and tried MATRYOSHKA DOLLS in the bottom slot … suddenly, everything started working! Constructing can be a lot like solving.

Almost finished solving but need a bit more help? We’ve got you covered.

Warning: There be spoilers ahead, but subscribers can take a peek at the answer key.

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