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Themeless

Themeless 31

Words:  70     

Average Length:  5.51

Difficulty:  Straightforwardly challenging

Pettah fruit and vegetable market, Colombo, Sri Lanka (see comments on 44D below)

I’m back from my foray into preaching/political strategizing and hoping to entertain you with a middle-of-the-road themeless.  (Pick a lane, dammit!) 

44D:  Just before the pandemic hit, I was in Sri Lanka taking an architectural tour of Colombo.  As we walked up one street between a phenomenal indoor market and some beautifully restored buildings, the guide mentioned that Duran Duran had filmed the video for “Hungry Like the Wolf” on that very street.  Who’d’ve thought?!

online | puz | pdf | solution

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Themeless

Themeless 30

Words:  70

Average Length:  5.57

Difficulty:  Even though I’m posting this on 5/1, there’s no need to shout “Mayday”

“___ hundred flowers blossom” (Clue for 22 Across) (photo taken at the phenomenal Akureyri Botanical Gardens in Akureyri, Iceland)

1 Across was the seed, and it’s an interesting story:  Prince Esterhazy, Haydn’s patron, brought the composer and his orchestra to his summer palace and stayed longer than the musicians expected.  Being separated from their families back in Eisenstadt, where the Prince’s main palace was located, the musicians asked Haydn to seek the Prince’s permission to return.  Rather than confront the Prince directly, Haydn composed this symphony; at the end, after all the other musicians had snuffed out their candles and left the stage, only Haydn and the concertmaster remained.  The Prince got the message; the next day the court returned to Eisenstadt.  The Wikipedia article is here.

puz | pdf | solution

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Themeless

Themeless 29

Words:  70

Average Length:  5.37

Difficulty:  Not quite as difficult (by a small margin) as scaling these cliffs would be

Esha Ness, Lerwick, Shetland Islands (see 15 Down). Note the lack of puffins.

16 Across was the “seed,” appropriately enough, though it’s a concept that baffles me, as a lifelong suburbanite.  28 Across:  I had the opportunity to fly Emirates Business Class from DC to Dubai a few years ago and then fly it back from Singapore.  It was probably the most luxurious travel experience I’ve ever had.  15 Down:  In 2010 my brother and I visited the Shetland Islands, rented a car, and drove off to see (among other things) the puffins, which are all over the place – except, that is, for all the places we looked for them.  Shortly after that trip I started a blog (long dormant) called Puffinless Travel.  I’ve been to every continent except Australia since 2010 and still haven’t seen any puffins. 

puz | pdf | solution

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Themeless

Themeless 28

Words:  70

Average Length:  5.43

Difficulty:  You’ll exercise some neurons.  They’ll thank you.

Dog and tree (see 55 Down). The squirrel escaped. Again.

The seed for this one was 17 Across, which I listened to a couple of months ago for the first time since it was released back in 1979.  I do not greatly regret the 43-year gap and will probably listen to Blood on the Tracks a few dozen times before I listen to 17 Across again.  But it is 15 letters long, and it does allow a cutesy pairing with 56 Across (mascot for a candy I hold in similar regard to 17 Across).

puz | pdf | solution

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Themeless

Themeless 27

Words:  66

Average Length:  5.64

Difficulty:  Like trying to figure out the chord progression to almost any Steely Dan song

Ushuaia Harbor (the southern tip of 14 Down)

puz | pdf | solution

Time for a challenging themeless!  (I can feel your excitement.)  So, 14 Down (which I mentioned in my write-up last week if you want to cheat):  It’s home to llamas/alpacas/guanacos (some or all; I saw them from a bus but am not up on my camelids) and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.  To serve out our quarantine, my fellow infected people and I were bused to a small city called Rio Grande and put up in a barebones hotel (more like a dorm, but way cleaner) called Select Inn.  The ultra-warm and wonderful mother hen at the Inn, whose name is Cinthia, cared for us as if we were her own relatives, providing food, smiles, conversation, and much-needed laughter.  Thank you, Cinthia!!!  If you ever find yourself in 14 Down and are looking for assistance or advice, Cinthia and her son run a company called Odisea Fueguensa, which does just that.

I hope you enjoy the puzzle.  I haven’t decided what’s coming up next.  Guess you’ll have to check back next Sunday.

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Themeless

Themeless 26

Words:  68

Average Length:  5.51

Difficulty:  Like one of those mini golf holes where you need to hit the ball up a slope without letting it go down the other side.  Kinda hard, but doable.

This has nothing to do with the puzzle. I just found it amusing. Believe it or not, there is a road in there.

puz | pdf | solution

This one’s friendly enough, I think.  A little geometry, some tennis, a couple of expressions of distaste, one of my favorite childhood toys, and quick nods to the objectively best Steely Dan album and a terrific book by Taylor Jenkins Reid.  Please enjoy and pass it along.  Next week (Feb. 6), look for a themed puzzle built around some rock classics retitled by their aging performers.

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Themeless

Themeless 25

Words:  68

Average Length:  5.38

Difficulty:  Yes

Chain Bridge with Buda Castle (Budapest) in the background. See 22 Across.

In constructing this puzzle, I wanted most of my grid-spanners to be phrases.  That’s one thing I love about Tim Croce’s Club 72 puzzles; many of his long answers are conversational.  (Check out his puzzles here. He posts challenging themeless puzzles every Tuesday and themeless or variety puzzles every Friday.)

puz | pdf | solution

A couple of other notes:  I’m particularly (yet inexplicably) fond of the punny clues for 29 and 52 Down, and I’m always happy to include 41 Down in a grid; she’s one of the very greatest singer-songwriters ever.

Enjoy, share, follow, etc.  Next up (1/16) will be a puzzle with tips for where to eat in Motown.

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Themeless

Themeless 24

Words:  66

Average Length:  5.42

Difficulty:  Surmountable with a stepladder

Bridge, Kinderijk, Netherlands (see 20A)

puz | pdf | solution

After last week’s end-of-the-civilized-world vibe, this week’s grid is kinder, gentler, and a comparative ray of sunshine.  Please enjoy!

I figure crossword solvers generally like to read, so I’m linking below to lists of the best fiction and non-fiction books I read in 2021. I’m always happy to get book recommendations, so let me know if you’ve got any, particularly if they’re not well-known.

Fiction | Non-fiction

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Themeless

Themeless 23

Words:  72

Average Length:  5.19

Difficulty:  At least four “oys”

A horse (see 57 Across)

My seed entry was 19 Across, spurred by a vote of the Spotsylvania County (Virginia) School Board to remove – two members urged burning – “sexually explicit” books in school libraries.  Many of the targeted novels include LGBTQ content/characters.  The school board reversed itself a week later, dealing a setback, for now at least, to prudish yet prurient Puritans.

From there, I entered a dystopian death spiral, which accounts for 9D, 21D, 34A, and 54A.  At least I was able to include 40A, yet another expressive and inherently comic Yiddish word (as is “kvell,” in the clue).

puz | pdf | solution

I promise a less eschatological grid next week!  Please enjoy, share, and comment if you’re so inclined.

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Themeless

Themeless 22

Words:  70

Average Length:  5.54

Difficulty:  Quartzish on the Mohs scale?

They’re sheep! (see 12 Down) (taken in Northern Ireland, 2019)

I hope you all had a wonderful time last week with friends and family. The seed for this grid was 14 Across, where my brother and I will be going in February!   (Oh, the difficulty rating thing:  numbers are falsely precise, I think.  Henceforth I will come up with other ways of estimating the sweat of your collective brows.)  Please enjoy, pass along a link to the puzzle or my site, and be well!

puz | pdf | solution