Flag Day

New York Times, June 13

This puzzle was awesome. Hands-down the best Sunday grid in at least a couple of months.

I didn’t expect to be so impressed with the blah title of “Flag Day.” June 14 didn’t strike me as exciting enough to build a puzzle around — not even here in Philly, where we like to believe that resident Betsy Ross made the first U.S. flag.

Perhaps serendipitously, Flag Day happens to coincide with the World Cup, a true test of your standard knowledge. But only two of the six flags found in this puzzle are flying in South Africa: ITALY (“Country with a green, white and red flag,” 66 Across) and FRANCE (“Country with a blue, white and red flag,” 90 Across). The ones that didn’t make the big show: IRELAND (“Country with a green, white and orange flag,” 49 Across); MALI (“Country with a green, yellow and red flag,” 69 Down); GUINEA (“Country with a red, yellow and green flag,” 75 Down); and ROMANIA (“Country with a blue, yellow and red flag,” 19 Across).

The genius of the puzzle certainly isn’t in those bland clues. But they are the keys to the six theme answers, in which you create these “flags” going across, and incorporate their colors into the down clues. So the “Daughter of rocker Kurt and Courtney Love” (22 Across) is (FRANCE)S BEAN COBAIN, rendered as (BLUE)(WHITE)(RED)S BEAN COBAIN. Blue-white-red is the design of the flag of France, as we learned in 90 Across (see above). The colors are then used in the answers for 1 Down, “1959 #1 hit for the Fleetwoods” — MR (BLUE); 2 Down, “‘The Trumpet of the Swan’ author” — E.B. (WHITE); and 3 Down, “Bushed” — TI(RED).

_ “Buy real estate” (36 Across) is ACQU(IRE LAND), rendered ACQU(GREEN)(WHITE)(ORANGE), to cross with LIME (GREEN) (“Shade lighter than emerald, 15 Down); ALAN (WHITE) (“Longtime Yes drummer,” 16 Down); and WEST ORANGE (“New Jersey community next to Montclair,” 17 Down).

_ “Composer Philip Glass and others” (51 Across) are MINI(MALI)STS, entered as MINI(GREEN)(YELLOW)(RED)STS, to cross with (GREEN) TEA (“Drink with dim sum,” 53 Down); (YELLOW) ROSE (“Texas has one, in song,” 54 Down); and (RED)UCER (“One on a diet,” 55 Down).

_ “Not troubled by” (80 Across) is SAN(GUINE A)BOUT, written as SAN(RED)(YELLOW)(GREEN)BOUT, to cross with WHIR(RED) (“Sounded like a fan,” 57 Down); LESS (YELLOW) (“Braver,” 58 Down); and WAL(GREEN) (“Drugstore eponym,” 63 Down).

_ “Lighting enthusiasts?” (98 Across) are PY(ROMANIA)CS, entered as PY(BLUE)(YELLOW)(RED)CS, to cross with (BLUE)SMEN (“Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon and others,” 100 Down); BIG (YELLOW) TAXI (“1975 Joni Mitchell hit,” 83 Down); and SNO(RED) (“Had an unquiet sleep,” 84 Down).

_ “Modern school keepsakes” (110 Across) are DIG(ITAL Y)EARBOOKS, rendered DIG(GREEN)(WHITE)(RED)EARBOOKS, to cross with (GREEN)ER (“Not as experienced,” 112 Down); (WHITE)NS (“Bleaches,” 113 Down); and D(RED)GE (“Bring (up) from the past,” 107 Down).

Questions or comments? Tweet me @crosswordkathy

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