Soft T’s

New York Times crossword April 28 / Constructed by Patrick Berry

There’s no soft-peddling it: Today’s puzzle was completely given away by the title.

“Soft T’s” is an aural clue that common phrases would be tweaked by changing the sound of a hard T. So “What faking a stomachache might entail?” is CREATIVE WRITHING (23 Across), while “Gun belts, holsters and nightstick straps?” are THE LEATHER OF THE LAW (30 Across).

“Softies” would have been a less obvious title, in which case you might have said the crossword is for those who are too LENIENT (“Willing to let things slide,” 66 Down). OK, not really.

Other theme answers: “Dismounts like an expert gymnast?” is GETS OFF LITHELY (45 Across). “Women’s pants with pictures of wood shop tools?” are LATHE BLOOMERS (66 Across). “Become a new person by washing up?” is BATHE AND SWITCH (86 Across). “Unpopular ophthalmologist’s implement?” is A SCYTHE FOR SORE EYES (95 Across). And “What the giggling supporter of the Salem witch trials was told?” is NO LAUGHING, MATHER! – referring to Boston minister Cotton Mather.

Higher, Faster, Stronger Dept.: “1992 Olympic tennis gold medalist” is Jennifer CAPRIATI (84 Across). “Gymnast Gaylord” is MITCH, who competed on the 1984 team in Los Angeles. And a “City near Turin,” where the 2006 Winter Games were held, is ASTI (79 Across).

Speaking Of Mount Olympus Dept.: One of my favorite Greek myths tells the story of the ill-fated weaver ARACHNE (“Athena turned her into a spider,” 21 Across). But even though I know my Bulfinch’s fairly well, I didn’t know that “Blood of the Greek gods” is ICHOR (12 Down), which I got from crossing words.

Haha Dept.: “New releases?” are PAROLEES (39 Down). “Uses a keyless entry system?” is BREAKS IN (50 Across).

Slang Dept.: Surprised that Y’KNOW (“‘… see what I mean?’,” 96 Down) met with Will Shortz’s approval.

Classical Notes Dept.: “E equivalent” is F FLAT (36 Down). Also found a couple of music-makers in the grid – TESH (“‘Music in the Key of Love’ composer,” 72 Down) and SATIE (“‘Gymnopedies’ composer,” 11 Down). And the puzzle had two references to Bach: JESU (“Bach’s ‘___, meine Freude’,” 62 Across) and TOCCATA (“Many a Bach composition,” 88 Down).

For Fun Dept.: Unusual entries in the puzzle included ALOE VERA (“Coating on some facial tissues,” 1 Across), TOENAIL (“Painted thing, sometimes,” 18 Down), TAIL FINS (“They were big in the ’50s,” 60 Down), FREAKISH (“Bizarre,” 40 Down) and TRIOXIDE (“Arsenic ___ (ratsbane),” 120 Across).

Quack Quack Dept.: How have I never heard of “Blueberries for SAL,” the classic children’s book in 26 Across? I’ve definitely heard of its author, Robert McCloskey – his “Make Way For Ducklings” is a famous book whose main characters are also a popular sculpture in Boston’s Public Garden.

Need some solving tips and tricks? I’ve posted some here. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below. You can also visit my Facebook page, or tweet me @crosswordkathy.

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