New York Times crossword March 17 / Constructed by J.R. Leopold
It sure doesn’t feel like tennis season. It’s not even 40 degrees in Philly right now, and we got blanketed by a slushy, snowy, wintry mix yesterday.
Nonetheless, the theme of today’s easy, pun-filled puzzle would have us dream of warmer temperatures and the thwack! of the fuzzy ball against the racquet strings: A “Tennis clinic focusing on drop shot skills” is a NETWORKING EVENT (23 Across), while “Coaches who help you use your wrist in shots?” are SPIN DOCTORS (38 Across).
Others: “Tennis players who clown around?” are COURT JESTERS (49 Across). “‘For a righty, you hit the ball pretty well on your left side,’ and others?” are BACKHANDED COMPLIMENTS (67 Across). “Line judge’s mission?” is FAULT FINDING (88 Across). “‘Nothing’ and ‘aught’?” are LOVE HANDLES (96 Across). “Luke Skywalker’s volley?” is the very amusing RETURN OF THE JEDI (116 Across). “Mistakenly hitting into the doubles area during a singles match?” is an ALLEY OOPS (17 Down), and “Start of a tennis game?” is SERVE TIME (78 Down).
Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “Young actor Smith” is not Philly’s own superstar Will Smith, but his teenager JADEN (32 Across). Father and son star in the upcoming sci-fi flick “After Earth”; they previously teamed up in the oddly spelled “The Pursuit of Happyness.”
Parliament Dept.: “Jefferson’s vice president” was the funkadelic-ly named George CLINTON (93 Down). He apparently also served as Madison’s veep, and before all of that was the first governor of New York.
Teen Idol Dept.: “Middle brother in a 2000s pop trio” is JOE JONAS (32 Down). Speaking of Joes, a “Sloppy fast-food sandwich” is not a sloppy joe but a MCRIB (42 Down).
Doubled-Up Dept.: “Part of R.S.V.P.” is both VOUS (85 Across) and PLAIT (98 Across), from the phrase “Repondez, s’il vous plait” (“Please respond”). “Bit of voodoo” is a CURSE (102 Across), while “Subjected to voodoo” is HEXED (47 Down).
Dawn Of A New Era Dept.: “It falls between 3760 and 3761 on the Jewish calendar” is ONE B.C. (122 Across).
Cheep! Cheep! Dept.: “Batting champ John” (59 Down) really should have been “Onetime batting champ John,” considering it refers to John OLERUD, who won the title way back in 1993 with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Stumped Me Dept.: I left one square blank in this grid: I didn’t know that a “Riga resident” (37 Down) is called a LETT. I knew Riga was in Latvia, so I figured people who lived there were Latvians. I had LET_, but couldn’t get the last letter because I wasn’t familiar with the crossing word, either. That turned out to be RUBATO (“Having freedom of tempo,” 54 Across).