I hope you enjoy this moderately difficult themeless. Please feel free to share it with fellow crossword lovers. If you have any questions/comments/complaints, you can submit a comment below or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Military Cemetery, Normandy (see 26 Down)
1A: My first exposure to this beverage was a couple of years ago at a farmhouse after biking up a steep hill in the Black Forest. Delicious!!!
35A: Perhaps a bit obscure, but it’s in the lyrics of a very catchy Steely Dan tune (Doctor Wu, on the Katy Lied album) that I’ve been listening to regularly since it came out way back in 1975. The relevant verse: You walked in/And my life began again/Just when I’d spent the last /I could borrow ….
26D: If you have the chance to visit the D-Day beaches, grab it. I’ve traveled a great deal and have never had such a moving, profound experience.
This one’s a medium-difficulty themed puzzle inspired by my wife, who has become a true and adept devotee of the subject activity (not cow-washing, despite the picture below).
At the cow wash, Alapphuza, Kerala, India
39A: Check out the band if you’re interested – they play a raucous mix of klezmer, punk, gypsy music, and even salsa, and they sing in English, Russian, and Spanish, often in the same song.
43A: Sorry for the obscure fill. I struggled mightily to complete the mid-South, as you can probably tell; with the exception of 6D, that’s where most of the inferior fill is. I tried to put IRON-ONS here but just couldn’t make it work. Neither did IMPUGNS, or INTRONS (only slightly less obscure than what’s there), or ….
35D: Across the vast majority of (polytheistic) human cultures, there’s a trickster god. Coyote and Raven fill the role in various Native American cultures. In the Hebrew Bible, Jacob often acts as the trickster, although he’s not divine and Judaism is monotheistic.
Here’s a pretty easy puzzle that might elicit some serious groans, not from the effort required but from the “quality” of the puns in the theme answers. For an explanation of some of the cluing decisions and a dose of, ahem, bonus content – theme answers and clues that were in earlier versions of the grid but didn’t make the final cut for various reasons – see the write-up below the photo. [To those of you finding this site from Matt’s invaluable Daily Crossword Links, I’m painfully aware this is not a themeless puzzle; I messed up in naming a file and am now bearing the consequences. Mea culpa etc.]
The Stockholm waterfront (see 30 Across)
SPOILERS BELOW: CAREFUL!
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15A: RETRO GAMER. This is a thing, apparently; in fact, there’s an entire magazine devoted to people who love playing video games from the dim, dark past.
28A: A NO. The quote references one of Randy Jackson’s go-to phrases on American Idol. Even if you’re not an Idol fan (I’m not – The Voice is way better, IMO), I think the phrase has made it into general circulation.
41A: SWELTER. I think “shvitz” is a fair clue: it’s entered the English lexicon in the same way as other Yiddish words like schmear and shmuck.
46A: SUDAN LEVY. Schitt’s Creek has become a big part of current-day culture, so I hope the clue doesn’t throw too many people off. (Originally, I wanted this to be Sudan Rather, but I couldn’t make it work satisfactorily.)
63A: RINO. An acronym for Republican In Name Only.
2D: QATAR RUG. This one probably shows my age – my test-solver (son Adam), who is roughly half my age, hadn’t heard of “cut a rug” as an idiom meaning “dance”.
4D: ASS. Yes, the quote is accurate; it’s “a,” not “an”.
I had immense fun brainstorming possible theme answers (I’m easily amused). Here are some that were in earlier versions of the grid but didn’t make the final cut for reasons of space, symmetry, or recalcitrant crossings. Clues first, answers below:
Step sequence in Seoul?
Revolving fad in Apia?
Highlight of Showboat in Muscat?
Complaint at a Cairo bazaar?
How do you see the tallest buildings in Kiev?
I found a cool fossil buried near Nairobi – what should I do?
Lots of folks have things named after them. A few (mostly physicists and philosophers) have things named after them (epunyms? (sorry)) that allow for a bit of humor. How much of a bit is for you to decide….
Only one specific note: 56D refers to a TV show from a while back that is a bit obscure but well worth checking out if you’ve never seen it.