State Annexation

New York Times crossword Feb. 5 / Constructed by Charles M. Deber

How good are you at U.S. geographic trivia? Because this puzzle is predicated on state postal abbreviations, of all things. Luckily, I was the type of nerdy kid who memorized not only the state capitals, but also their two-letter short-hand. (Which doesn’t always conform with AP style, by the way.)

The knowledge served me well today. The eight abbreviations you need to know for this grid are LA (Louisiana), DE (Delaware), OR (Oregon), CT (Connecticut), ID (Idaho), IL (Illinois), AZ (Arizona) and MA (Massachusetts). You’ll have to add these letters — or “annex” them, in the title parlance — to certain answers in order to solve the theme clues.

Take 22 Across, “45-Down near Baton Rouge.” The answer to 45 Down (“Basketball rim”) is HOOP. So a HOOP near Baton Rouge (the capital of Louisiana) is HOOP + LA, yielding “hoopla.” Going back to 22 Across, another word for “hoopla” is EXCITEMENT.

Others: 38 Across (“117-Down near Salem?”) is OPERA SINGER, another word for “tenor” — TEN (“Perfect rating,” 117 Down) + OR for Oregon; 58 Across (“1-Across near Hartford?”) is CONCENTRATE, another word for “extract” — EXTRA (“Superfluous,” 1 Across) + CT for Connecticut; 78 Across (“114-Down near Boise?”) is SPLIT SECOND, a synonym for “rapid” — RAP (“Hip-hop,” 114 Down) + ID for Idaho; and 95 Across (“76-Down near Springfield?”) is PODDED PLANT, a description of “lentil” — LENT (“Spring time,” 76 Down) + IL for Illinois.

And the last three: 111 Across (“61-Across near Phoenix?”) is BIRTHSTONE, a label for “topaz” (my birthstone; yay November!) — TOP (“Blouse, e.g.” 61 Across) + AZ for Arizona; 113 Across (“9-Across near Boston?”) is MORAL TENET, a definition of “dogma” — DOG (“Follow persistently,” 9 Across) + MA for Massachusetts; and 25 Across (“124-Across near Dover?”) is GARDEN TOOL, which describes “spade” — SPA (“Whirlpool,” 124 Across) + DE for Delaware. Funny how DIGS IN (“Doesn’t budge,” 9 Down) crosses with the “D” in GARDEN TOOL.

Pretty creative, if you ask me. Kudos to constructor Charles M. Deber!

More Geography Dept.: “New Jersey town bordering Rahway” is ISELIN (30 Across), but don’t ask me how to pronounce it (even though I always drive past the exit for it when headed toward New York). And “Boston’s Mass ___” is AVE (7 Down), as in “avenue.”

Star-Crossed Lovers Dept.: “Romeo or Juliet” is an ELOPER (23 Down). The words OR UP complete the companion poetic clue for 80 Down: “‘Is she not down so late, ___ so early?’: ‘Romeo and Juliet’.” And in a Spanish translation, perhaps the young Mr. Montague might tell the fair Miss Capulet: “Tu ___ mi amor” — ERES (106 Down).

More Bard Dept.: “How Shakespeare’s Rosalind dresses” is AS A MAN (54 Across), a reference to “As You Like It.” A similarly worded answer is AS TO COST (“Regarding the price,” 5 Down).

Fab Four Dept.: Paul, John, George and Ringo were also mentioned twice in the clues. “The Beatles’ ‘All ___ Got to Do'” is I’VE (19 Across), while “When sung three times, part of a Beatles refrain” is YEAH (42 Across).

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “Women’s suffrage Amendment” is XIX (2 Down), for 19. The Roman numerals also denote the name of a restaurant in Philly.

Speaking of Roman numerals, I’m off to prepare for a Super Bowl XLVI party!

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