Greetings from the quiet car of Amtrak’s Keystone train (shhhh!), which is carrying me swiftly southward from the heart of Puzzleland back to Philadelphia.
Today’s crossword will put you on a first-name basis with nearly a dozen people whose names are hidden in the grid. But who are they, and why have they been left behind (as the title says)? I’m afraid I can only answer the first half of that question.
By my reckoning, those remaining are GRACE, JAMES, ALEX, PETER, MARIA, SARAH, CLAIRE, EVAN, KYLE and STELLA. Their names are found in the circled squares of the theme answers – but the catch is you have to read them backward, or going “left.” So GRACE is hidden in the THREE-CAR GARAGE at 23 Across (“McMansion’s storage.”), and ALEX is embedded in PIXELATED at 39 Across (“Dotty?”).
Others: LESE MAJESTE (“Attack on sacred custom,” 37 Across), CONCRETE PUMP (“Piece of road-construction equipment,” 50 Across), FAIR AMOUNT (“Lot,” 67 Across) and HARASSMENT (“Badgering,” 69 Across).
More: AERIAL COMBAT (“What the Red Baron engaged in,” 80 Across), ON AVERAGE (“Generally speaking,” 91 Across), WIDELY KNOWN (“Famous,” 96 Across) and BALLET SLIPPERS (“They may keep you on your toes,” 113 Across).
So … it is interesting wordplay, I guess. But I’m left wanting a little bit more. Are these names related somehow? Famous people who are left-handed, perhaps? Anyone?
Monikers Dept.: Other names in the puzzle that aren’t part of the theme include ISAO AOKI (“Golfer nicknamed Tower,” 65 Down), BURGESS (“British novelist Anthony,” 3 Down) and MAHLER (“‘Das Lied von der Erde’ composer,” 68 Down).
On The Menu Dept.: The doubled clue “Bar food?” yields both SALADS (14 Across) and OYSTER (91 Down). “Cajun dishes” are GUMBOS (95 Down). And you can file this under “Yuck”: STOLI is “Vodka with a Chocolat Razberi flavor” (64 Across).
Scene Of The Crime Dept.: I don’t think I’ve ever watched the network drama “CSI,” or any of its many spinoffs, but maybe I should. According to 88 Across, it’s a “TV series for which Quentin Tarantino has written and directed.”
Athletic Dept.: The grid featured the NFL (“Lamar Hunt Trophy org.,” 84 Down), the PGA (“___ Tour,” 111 Across) and the minor-league AHL (“Rink org.,” 114 Down). It also had a reference to SPACE JAM, the film starring retired NBA superstar Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny (“Jordan feature,” 105 Across).
Tripped Up Dept.: Speaking of jams, I puzzled my way out of one after too-quickly entering HEE for 45 Across (“‘___-haw!'”). That left me with an errant H that, for a while, kept me from figuring out the answer for 33 Down. Eventually I figured HEE had to be YEE, making 33 Down the punny PEYOTE (“Provider of a trip across a desert?”).
Say What? Dept: Never heard of the word COHERER (“Primitive radio receiver,” 2 Down), which I got from crossing answers, including the equally awkward PC BOARD (“Etched computer component,” 1 Across).
Wildlife Dept.: “Cat calls” are the terribly spelled MIAOWS (73 Down). And was anyone familiar with HART (“Antlered animal,” 69 Down)? I know some of my deer terms – buck, doe, fawn. But HART? Arrrrgh.
Notes Dept.: This blog post has been updated to add a photo.