Triple Bonds

New York Times crossword April 3 / Constructed by Oliver Hill and Eliza Bagg

Despite the title and corresponding start of baseball season, this puzzle is not about a former Giants star whose federal trial continues this week in San Francisco. No, today’s crossword is like that “Before & After” category on “Jeopardy” where contestants have to come up with a phrase in which the middle word goes with what comes before and after it. So if the clue from Alex was “Phillies field jewelry,” the question would be a “What is a baseball diamond ring?” (Baseball diamond, diamond ring.)

This crossword puzzle takes the concept a step further by linking the first and last words as well. The example above doesn’t really work (what’s a baseball ring?) but the theme answers in this grid are pretty clever. “Chinese restaurant offering/Wonderland affair/Group on the left?” (23 Across) is a GREEN TEA PARTY: the restaurant offering is green tea; the Wonderland affair (as in “Alice in Wonderland”) is a tea party; and the left-leaning group is the green party.

Others: CRAB CAKE WALK (“Baltimore specialty/Effortless task/Move on all fours with the belly up,” 27 Across); LOW CUT CLASS (“Plunging/Play hooky/Vulgar,” 43 Across); AIR CANADA DRY (“Northern flier/Mixer maker/Put on the line,” 52 Across); DIRTY BLONDE JOKE (“Yellowish brown/Bit of ‘dumb’ humor/Many a forwarded e-mail,” 67 Across); HEAD COLD CASE (“Cause of congestion/Detective’s challenge/Loony,” 87 Across); HONEY POT PIE (“Winnie-the-Pooh possession/Baked entree/Sweetie,” 94 Across); CAT FOOD FIGHT (“Fancy Feast product/Cafeteria outburst/’Mean Girls’ event,” 106 Across); and BLUE STATE BIRD (“Democratic territory/Cardinal, e.g./’Over the Rainbow’ flier,” 119 Across).

Lessons on Philly Dept.: BON JOVI (“‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ band,” 21 Across) is mostly known for that 1980s anthem, big hair and proud Jersey roots. But lead singer Jon Bon Jovi has adopted Philly as a second hometown, with his part-ownership of the Philadelphia Soul arena football team and now its offshoot charitable foundation, which works to build affordable housing and eradicate homelessness.

More Lessons on Philly Dept.: A “Hero” (102 Across) is not a HOAGY, as the grid would have you believe, but a HOAGIE. Anyone from Philadelphia will tell you that. It is HOAGIES, plural, and HOAGIE, singular. Deal with it. (Philly bonus: Blue-eyed soul duo Hall & OATES (“Hall’s partner,” 103 Across) met at Temple University here.)

Looking Back Dept.: I had a few empty squares in last week’s puzzle. Turns out I missed one step of the BALL’s journey toward the split. My update is at the bottom of the post.

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