Back to the Start

New York Times crossword Feb. 26 / Constructed by Daniel A. Finan

Greetings from Philadelphia. I’m back home from California and trying to do enough laundry before taking off again next weekend — for Phillies spring training!

Today’s puzzle required some circular thinking to make sense of theme answers that otherwise appeared to stop short. In 119 Across, for example, the “Marlon Brando film” is “On the Waterfront.” But the grid only allows you to enter ON THE WATERFR. What gives? The last three letters can be found by going “back to the start,” as the puzzle title says — the ON T in ON THE.

The same goes for TONI BRAX, the entry for 25 Across: “Multiple Grammy winner who was a contestant on ‘Dancing With the Stars’.” Her name, of course, is Toni Braxton, which you get by going back to the start and re-adding the TON (which I underlined).

Others: PERSONAL SHOP (“Aide for a V.I.P. customer,” 23 Across); ANTI-DEPRESS (“Prozac, for one,” 35 Across); PLEASURE PRINCI (“Freudian concept,” 59 Across); PHYSICAL GEOGRA (“Mountains, rivers, plains, etc.” 78 Across); ARTICHOKE HE (“Fancy salad ingredient,” 99 Across); and UNDERGRO (“London transportation,” 117 Across).

Answers That Seemed Long Enough To Be Theme Entries But Weren’t Dept.: WOUNDED KNEE (“South Dakota memorial site,” 43 Down) and TROGLODYTES (“Cavemen,” 37 Down).

Oscar Night Dept.: “Actor Hill of ‘Moneyball’” is JONAH (89 Across); he and his co-star, Brad Pitt, are both up for Academy Awards tonight. (The movie is also nominated for Best Picture.) Other entertainment references include Steve MCQUEEN (“‘The Magnificent Seven’ co-star,” 86 Across) and MALONE (“‘Cheers’ bartender Sam,” 122 Across).

Fun Words Dept.: GABFESTS (“Confabs,” 12 Across), OCTOPOD (“Paper nautilus, e.g.” 26 Across) and TWIST TIE (“Fastener patented in 1939,” 124 Across).

Punny Dept.: “Stern taking a bow (in two senses)” is violinist ISAAC (20 Across); “It’s felt on the head” is a FEZ (52 Down); and “Send some pixxx?” is SEXT (19 Down).

Clearwater Here We Come Dept.: We have tickets to see the Phillies play the YANKEES (“‘Gone With the Wind’ bad guys,” 91 Down) in Florida in early March!

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