Roughly Speaking

New York Times, April 26

Um … er … how do I start this one?

Try with those two oft-repeated crutches: UM and ER. If you’re anything like me, I use those nonwords way too much in conversation — and now way too much in this crossword puzzle. The trick here is to squeeze as many of those UMs and ERs as you possibly can into the theme answers. You do that by putting both letters in a single box.

So 98 Across, “Crowded, in a way,” is BUMPER TO BUMPER … except in this puzzle, you squeeze it together: B(UM)P(ER) TO B(UM)P(ER). And those doubled-up squares cross quite nicely with answers like 90 Down, “Historic South Carolina fort”: S(UM)T(ER).

Another fun one: 62 Down, “2003 sequel to a popular 1994 comedy”: D(UM)B AND D(UM)B(ER)(ER). That crosses with 110 Across, “North Carolinian, e.g.” — EAST(ER)N(ER) — and 68 Across, “Actress Amanda” — PL(UM)M(ER), better known to “Pulp Fiction” fans as Honey Bunny.

Off the theme, I thought it was pretty cool to find out that eBay’s first sale was a broken laser pointer (40 Down). I also smiled at 46 Down (“Its capital is Bamako”) — MALI, on which I had to write a history report for Mr. Pryor in junior high school. That report also taught me Mali is the home of Timbuktu; who knew the place actually existed?

Questions or comment? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

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