WEDNESDAY PUZZLE — You might not have noticed, but crossword constructors enjoy playing with words. It turns out that you can do a lot with words, and Zhouqin Burnikel is particularly good at noticing some of those possibilities.
Maybe she doesn’t take the creativity of the English language for granted because it’s a second language for her, or maybe she’s just very creative and observant herself. Maybe it’s a little of both. Either way, this is a fun puzzle that is relatively easy to solve, but will keep its theme secret until the very end. You really can’t ask more of that from a midweek puzzle.
1A: Right out of the box, Ms. Burnikel challenges us with a question mark clue, but fear not — you’ve got this. We know that “Trial separation?” can’t really be about people who are parting on a trial basis, because we’ve got that question mark. What other kinds of trials do you know about? There are legal trials, and if you squint a bit, a separation during a trial could be considered the RECESS or break between parts of the trial.
30A: More wordplay! A “Sub system” is hinting at a submarine, which uses SONAR.
49A: A veiled capital clue, if ever I saw one. The “Booker, for one: Abbr.” in this clue is not someone who books gigs, but the SEN. Cory Booker.
63A: Hi kids! It’s absolutely killing me that I have to explain who this is, but SID Vicious was a member of the punk rock group, the Sex Pistols. He died in 1979 of a drug overdose.
8D/42D: Somewhat CONJOINed clues, in that they both have to do with the same denomination of American money, but both use its slang name. “Sawbucks” are TENS ($10 bills), and “Half a sawbuck” is an ABE, or a $5 bill, because Abraham Lincoln is on it.
Ms. Burnikel takes the revealer phrase CROSS DRESSING (14D) and does just that with her theme entries.
Have no idea what I’m talking about? It’s probably not the first time. Let’s take a closer look.
There are five theme phrases in this puzzle, and each of them contains the name of a salad dressing. For example, the central phrase DUDE RANCH obviously has RANCH dressing in it.
The thing that holds this word salad together (and I mean “word salad” in the nicest way, because it can negative connotations) is that the revealer crosses each one. That’s pretty amazing. And delicious, too. Pass the croutons.
Need a little more help? Click on any of the remaining theme clues below to see the answer.
18A. Elvis Presley hit inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame
JAIL HOUSE ROCK
24A. Forum greeting
44A. Gangster group in “Eastern Promises”
51A. 2003 film starring Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron
THE ITALIAN JOB
I originally had J-ROD for 55-Down slot. Will felt it was too ephemeral, so I redid the lower right corner.
Lots of clue changes for this puzzle. I guess I had Monday in mind when cluing this grid, totally forgetting to take the word count into consideration. The central crossing dictated the 72-word grid and created a few tough spots.
The Tipping Point
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Warning: There be spoilers ahead, but subscribers can take a peek at the answer key.
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