Double Break Point

New York Times, Dec. 6

Wow, I apologize for this belated post. I couldn’t get into my blog for a couple of days.

This week was a visual and aural theme: Common two-word phrases tweaked for new meaning by doubling the final letter of the first word.

So, to nitpick (32 Across) is to ASSAULT TRIFLES; things heard after thumbs are hit with hammers (81 Across) are CARPENTER RANTS; young scientists who are impossible to work with (67 Across) are LAB BRATS; a holder of pet electrons, protons and neutrons (93 Across) is an ATOMIC CAGE; a memento of an old athletic injury (25 Across) is a SPORTS SCAR; reductions in rank that aren’t entirely bad (100 Across) are MIXED DEMOTIONS; begging soldiers (60 Across) are TROOP PLEADERS; and double or nothing, say (52 Across) is a NEW WAGER.

Even after all that, I have to admit I’ve got a few blank squares in this puzzle. But a shout-out to constructor Patrick Berry for WHELPED (73 Across, “Gave birth to a litter”) and RAHAB (91 Across, “Prostitute who protected Israelite spies, in Joshua”), words I can’t remember coming across in a grid. (RAHAB seems a bit forced but WHELPED gets kudos.)

And 17 Across (“1930s heavyweight champ know as the Ambling Alp”) had me puzzled until I got several cross words to reveal CARNERA. I think I have actually seen plaster casts of Primo Carnera’s hands, maybe at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. His hands were MASSIVE. Like the size of my entire head. I had never heard the “Ambling Alp” reference but, if memory serves, the implication of Carnera being a walking mountain seems pretty appropriate.

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

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