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Themeless

Themeless 46

Castle outside a different kind of 34 Across, in Ireland

Words: 70

Average Length: 5.43

When I constructed this puzzle in late November, 29 Across was “it fits and it’s not awful” kind of fill.  With David Crosby’s passing, though, it gives me a chance to mention him in a clue and express gratitude for the thousands of hours I spent listening to him in The Byrds, in 29 Across, in 29 Across plus Y, and on his own.  He had a pure voice and a gift for heartfelt melodies and lyrics.  RIP, D.C. “I sing in silent harmony/We shall be free.”  (David Crosby, Guinnevere)

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Themeless

Themeless 45

Words:  68

Average Length:  5.65

3 Down and 18 Down were the seeds for this grid; of all the great sayings and quotes about wine, these happen to fit symmetrically.  Other than bringing your oenological expertise to bear, you can test your knowledge of stoner comedies, Springsteen albums, and dog breeds that anagram to a brand of markers.  Enjoy!

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Themeless

Themeless 44

Flamingos, seen in Namibia last week. They have nothing to do with the puzzle but I think it’s a cool picture.

Words:  68

Average Length:  5.59

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!  This themeless started with the entries at 1 Across and 11 Down.  I first heard about 11 Down on a trip to Portugal in October (where the fee for one is close to half a million dollars).  I tried to make the cluing on this one a bit gentler than usual, but it’ll still be a workout.  

Revision: I just found out the first half of the clue for 3 Down isn’t right. Please ignore the reference to “trumpeter Blanchard.”

PS: I just returned from a terrific trip going from Lisbon to Cape Town, with stops in Madeira, Gran Canaria, The Gambia, Senegal, Ghana, Angola, and Namibia. If you’d like to see some photos and my write-up, please visit my travel blog.

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Themeless

Themeless 42

Words: 70

Average Length: 5.40

In the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe” series, Douglas Adams asserts that the answer to “life, the universe, and everything” is 42.  In that vein, I proudly present Themeless 42, which answers such pressing questions as:  What’s orange and hangs out in a mall (6 Down)?  Who’s the leader of the pack (17 Across)?  And what exactly is fast food (12 Across)?  Please enjoy, and please share!

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Themeless

Themeless 41

See clue for 26 Across (Leaf producer)

Words:  72

Average Length:  5.25

Just a couple of notes on this one:  first, it’s a themeless, but somehow several clues relate to musicians, songs, or lyrics.  My brain has song lyrics (mostly from the 60s and 70s) crowding every synapse, to the apparent exclusion of more useful information.  Maybe using some of those as clues will free up room for things like people’s names, which I am utterly inept at remembering.

Second, the clue for 46A:  “Reading to your kids, e.g.”  I read to my children every night when they were growing up, and those memories remain among my most cherished (“… is the word I use to describe, whoa-o-o-o-o-o-o …” [The Association, Cherish (1966)].  See what I mean?)  Sandy and I have our first grandchild coming in February, and I can’t wait to make more wonderful memories (“… all alone in the moonlight …”) [Barbara Streisand, 1981, from the soundtrack of Cats].

Please, if you have young children, read to them – it’s an amazing bonding experience (take it away, Jimi [Hendrix, 1967]:  “Are you experienced/Or have you ever been experienced?”)! And while you’re at it, sing to them. Lyrics can come in handy!

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Themeless

Themeless 39

Gondolas with Isola San Giorgio Maggiore in the background (see clue for 55 Across, “It’s seen in Italy”)

Words:  70

Average Length:  5.46

This one started with the clue/answer pair at 18 Across.  23 Down went in shortly thereafter, and it’s one of my favorite clue/answer pairs in any of my puzzles, if you’ll excuse the self-pat on the back. 

51 Down’s clue (“Altamira or Lascaux, e.g.”) references something on my bucket list that I’ll never be able to fulfill.  I’m fascinated by anthropology and archeology, and the ancient art in these locations could illustrate the dictionary definition of “evocative.”  Alas, they’re closed to the public, so I’ll have to content myself with listening to the second track on The Royal Scam (link here), where Steely Dan captures a bit of the magic.

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Themeless

Themeless 38

Aligned house windows, Machu Picchu (see shameless plug, below)

Words:  74

Average Length:  5.00

Shameless plug time:  if you’re at all interested in travel, check out my PuffinlessTravel blog. I’ve added several write-ups and dozens of photos from my just-completed trip to Machu Picchu, Cusco, Quito, and the Galapagos.

This grid began with the entries at 20, 37, and 50 Across, which sort of go together despite the “themeless” label. 

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Themeless

Themeless 37

The Hermitage, St. Petersburg (see 29 Across)

Words:  68

Average Length:  5.50

The seed for this was 33/36 Across, which (complete with the clue), randomly popped up while I was doing something important like shaving or playing electronic Yahtzee.  Then I slapped down 1 Across and decided I had to work in 14 Across as a complement.  (We’re big into pickles in our family. And deli mustard.) Enjoy, and “have some eat,” as my grandma used to say.

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Themeless

Themeless 35

Words:  66

Average Length:  5.82

Difficulty:  Whose words these are I think you know/My themeless puzzles challenge though/There is no need for you to fear/You always can to Google go! (With apologies to Robert Frost.)

Theater of Dionysus, Athens

I’ve been on a poetry-reading kick for several months; inevitably, that newfound interest is seeping into my grids, which accounts for the grid-spanners at 18 and 51 Across.  Both are lines from well-known poems that are powerful and devastating, in very different ways.

I encountered 12 Across in a very good book my son and I read as part of our 2-person book group: “The Future Starts Here:  Adventures in the Twenty-First Century,” by John Higgs.  Higgs is a thought-provoking, entertaining British writer who seems to know brilliant, creative, cool people in all areas of human endeavor.  (The book we’re currently reading, which I also strongly recommend, is a remarkable family history by Ingrid Rojas Contreras entitled “The Man Who Could Move Clouds.”)

There are certainly simpler ways to clue 16 Across, but I wanted to use a lyric from all-time favorite Joni Mitchell, who recently made an inspirational return to the Newport Folk Festival.  No apologies for the groaner of a clue for 26 Across; I figured I’d work the poetry angle into a pun to draw attention away from the fact that the answer is arrant crosswordese.  Finally, as noted in the clues, after I finished the grid I somehow ended up with five entries clues relating to Greek mythology.  I’ll sign off by saying, in the name of Apollo (god of the sun, music, and poetry), please enjoy the puzzle and come back Wednesday for Mostly Musical Mini 18.

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Themeless

Themeless 34

Words:  72

Average Length:  5.28

Difficulty:  You’d better believe it

A welcome sight after a long hike in Brecon Beacon National Park (Wales). See 13 Across.

This one started with the 14D/24A pair because, word nerd that I am, I like how two such similar-looking words can mean basically the exact opposite thing.  Another seed was 51A, which I hadn’t heard of before reading Brad Leithauser’s fantastic book subtitled “The Architecture of Poetry.”  (I can’t give you the title because it contains one of the words in the answer.)  Other than that, I ramped up the cluing difficulty on this one, so beware!  If you like the puzzle, please share it.  Come back Wednesday for another Mostly Musical Mini.

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