Befitting

New York Times crossword May 19 / Constructed by Jean O’Conor

One of the first tweets I saw when I woke up this morning was from @That_Smoke: “The NYT crossword puzzle was easy enough to do in ink. #sadtrombone.”

So it was with a heavy heart that I went to my corner market to buy the paper, wondering what disappointment awaited. (For those of you who have not discovered the genius of Sad Trombone, click here.) Turns out that “Befitting” was among the easiest puzzles of the year so far, though I will say I enjoyed its theme answers much more than the nonsense in last week’s “Simply Put.”

“Befitting” is an aural clue alluding to the fact that each theme answer tweaks a common phrase by using a “B” sound: “Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic?” are TENNIS SERBS (23 Across), while “Let Justin take care of everything?” is LEAVE IT TO BIEBER (65 Across).

Others: “Tour guide’s comment at the primate house?” is THAT’S A GIBBON (28 Across). “Sign for tourists visiting the Bolshoi?” is BALLET PARKING (33 Across). “Tropical paradise for Barbie and Ken?” is BALI OF THE DOLLS (51 Across). “Passed security at the troubadours’ convention?” is SHOWED BALLAD ID (84 Across). “Prepare to go canoeing?” is GET OUT THE BOAT (97 Across). “Stadium binge?” is a HOTDOG BENDER (107 Across). And “Fortunetellers’ protest demand?” is SIBYL RIGHTS (116 Across).

All in all, not a bad debut for constructor Jean O’Conor, a retired speech-language pathologist and grandmother from small-town Vermont. You can read more about her in the NYT’s Wordplay blog.

Unusual Entries Dept.: “Hyperbolically large” is GINORMOUS (25 Across). “No longer fizzy” is GONE FLAT (4 Down). “Like Nasser’s vision” is PAN-ARAB (74 Across). “Salad ingredient” is TUNA FISH (13 Down). “Google hit units” are WEB PAGES (90 Down). “Like steppes” are TREELESS (27 Across). And “Jordanian port” is AQABA (34 Down).

Doubled-Up Dept.: “Ran” was the clue for both FLED (45 Down) and its neighbor BLED (46 Down). Figuring those out helped me get FBI (“Cry before ‘Open up!’,” 45 Across), which I don’t think I ever would solved otherwise. That, in turn, led me to I SPY (“Children’s game with letters,” 47 Down), which had also stumped me because I never played it as a kid. The answer is usually clued in reference to the TV show starring Bill Cosby and Robert Culp.

First-Name Basis Dept.: “Drudge of the Drudge Report” is MATT (1 Down). “Ghostbuster Spengler” is EGON, a bizarre entry that I knew from countless basic cable reruns of the classic movie from 1984. “Soap actress Sofer” is RENA (50 Across). “One of the Dionne quints” is EMILIE (5 Down). And the cheesy clue “’60s White House name” (55 Down) – which I complained about a few months ago – yields ABE, for 1860s president Abraham Lincoln. #sadtrombone.

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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