NYT Crossword Answers: “Big chunk of old block?”

PUZZLE TUESDAY – Andy Kravis is a great all-around builder. It’s his 26th Times crossword, and he’s created puzzles for each day of the week, as well as a variety grid of wordplay and anagrams. Today we get a lot of classic trivia and a theme that draws from a huge pool of popular sayings, but the whole solution is fresh and piquant. I’ve noted some interesting paired clues, and I love the high-low mix of factoids: everything seems just mellow enough for a Tuesday.

Book lovers will rejoice at the many literary references: Captain AHAB, KUBLAI Khan, Stephen Vincent BENÉT, Edward ALBEE and a great expression of “Hamlet”, “HOIST with its own firecracker”, written by the BARD.

17A. Cinephiles also have anecdotes. Is “Say Anything” a classic? There is certainly at least one iconic scene between its stars, John Cusack and IONE Skye.

45A. I believe this synonym for “Protection” is written more often than it is spoken, and it certainly didn’t cross my mind until I had several letters crossed. AEGIS has its roots in ancient Greece and comes from the shield of Zeus, which was apparently made of goatskin.

10D/35D. There’s a nice pair of cartoon questions here with oddly spelled answers. “The Cartoonist of ‘The Family Circus'” might be hard to deduce if you’ve never read this BIL KEANE comic. On the other hand, “cousin of the Addams family” is only three letters with the T doubled in ITT. This clever little creature often appears in crossword fillers.

11D/29D. The culinary entry “Ingredient in a Reuben” goes well with its mirror image in this puzzle, “They can be released during scuba diving”, at 11D. It may be exaggerated, but SAUERKRAUT undergoes fermentationand fermentation releases AIR BUBBLES.

There are five anatomical idioms in today’s chart. Interestingly, their clues are all straightforward, so the complete package might surprise you towards the end, but you Most likely know them all by conversation. (Are you using them correctly? I learned that I had misinterpreted one for years.)

The first example is at 18-Across, “Paying for something expensive”. The answer is FOOT THE BILL, which dates back to at least the early 1800s and is most often used for big expenses like a wedding or vacation.

At 26-Across, “Facing unpleasant consequences” is FACING THE MUSIC. It’s a chestnut that I’ve seen hundreds of times without realizing that it sounds quite nice, actually. There are some theories about its origin, but I like the idea that members of the English nobility, attending vocal concerts, were forced to sit and watch the peasants sing songs that brought them down by criticism or satire . Then there is a scope entry to 40-Across which has a somewhat similar meaning to “Taking responsibility for misdeed”. When you do the right thing after a debacle, you MUST TAKE THE BLAME.

My mysterious phrase is at 49-Across, “Bet on all competitors but one”, or BACK THE FIELD. I must have mentally confused “return” and “play” at one point, but I always imagined someone betting on every possible outcome of a horse race, just to win Something. Bid on all horses except one makes me superstitious.

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