[Note: This is the syndicated L.A. Times puzzle. It does not appear in the actual newspaper, but is available for free at cruciverb.com.]
Theme: "English Lessons We Never Learned" — English class puns!
- 23A: Legal dispute over personal property? (POSSESSIVE CASE).
- 39A: Oratorical elements? (PARTS OF SPEECH).
- 52A: Santa's minor children? (DEPENDENT CLAUSES).
- 69A: Settlement negotiated by one's ancestors? (ANTECEDENT AGREEMENT).
- 88A: Part of a broken-up prison term? (SENTENCE FRAGMENT).
- 98A: Rosy answer in a seer's crystal ball? (FUTURE PERFECT).
- 120A: Philatelist or numismatist? (COLLECTIVE NOUN).
- 22A: Combat mission (SORTIE). This is a very un-military-sounding military word. "Shall we plan a sortie for this evening, fellows?"
- 28A: Film feline (ELSA). The lioness in "Born Free." I've never seen it.
- 31A: Rod's associate (REEL). The clue makes it sound like "Rod" is a person, so I was trying to think of a Rod Serling associate.
- 80A: Bourbon with a floral logo (FOUR ROSES). Never heard of this one. I'm not up on my bourbon brands. Here's the story: "The founder of Four Roses Bourbon became smitten by the beauty of a Southern belle. It is said that he sent a proposal to her, and she replied that if her answer were 'Yes,' she would wear a corsage of roses to the upcoming ball. When she arrived in her beautiful gown, she wore a corsage of four red roses. He later named his bourbon 'Four Roses' as a symbol of his devout passion for the lovely belle." Apparently he was too drunk to remember her name. And I bet she was wearing one rose and the guy was seeing double-double.
- 87A: James's creator (IAN). Bond, James Bond. Fleming, Ian Fleming.
- 97A: Reptilian warning (SSS). You know, "Sss..." could be a reptilian warning or a reptilian greeting or a reptilian swear word or a reptilian anything. When you're a snake, you don't have many vocalization options.
- 105A: Detective Wolfe (NERO). If you're a Nero Wolfe fan (and why wouldn't you be?), I hope you've watched the A&E "Nero Wolfe" series produced by and co-starring Timothy Hutton. It's the best book-to-screen adaptation I've ever seen. Satisfactory.
- 125A: Euripides play in which the title heroine never goes to Troy (HELEN). This sounds like a "Jeopardy!" answer. I like it.
- 2D: How the cheese stands? (CHEESE). Wow, this was a complete "what the bloody heck?" clue for me. Looks like it's a line from "The Farmer in the Dell." Do people know this? This song must not have been in my childhood repertoire, because none of the lyrics look familiar.
- 10D: 1977 Steely Dan album (AJA). The only Steely Dan fact you need to know, for crossword purposes. Aja was also the name of the guitarist from Jem and the Holograms, but I haven't seen that in a puzzle yet. Truly outrageous.
- 14D: Palace of the Ottoman sultans (TOPKAPI). Cool entry.
- 25D: Cognac initialism (VSOP). Very Special Old Pale. Did you ever notice that crosswords are full of booze clues?
- 79D: Ones sitting tight? (SOTS). "Tight" means drunk. *HIC*
- 90D: Medvedev's denial (NYET). That's a fun name to say, and it would work great in a palindrome. "No Medvedev demon." (That's lame, but you get the idea.)
- 118D: Subject of an annual Colorado brewing festival (MEAD). More booze. I'd rather have a flagon of mead than a glass of bourbon or the Very Special Old Pale stuff.
Crosswordese 101 Round-up: