Wordplay, The CROSSWORD COLUMN
Natan Last’s Saturday puzzle will have you dancing in the street.
SATURDAY PUZZLE — It has been more than three and a half years since we’ve solved a Natan Last puzzle on a Saturday, which is far too long. This constructor is deservedly a favorite among solvers, and this puzzle shouldn’t disappoint — a lot of nimble wordplay, interesting trivia and not a single dud or misstep that I can see.
I love highbrow collisions with mind candy like the cross of 7-Down and 27-Across in this puzzle. Learning PARI PASSU, which sounds musical but seems to get most of its use as a legal term, helped to balance out the sugar high I hit when I got THONG SONG. (This was the first entry in the puzzle that I filled, filled, filled in.)
14A. Neither span entry today is a debut or anything terribly obscure, but this clue sent me astray for a bit. I was thinking of a substance that one could “substitute for coffee,” like chicory root or yerba mate, rather than a “substitute for coffee,” an additive like NONDAIRY CREAMER.
43A. This is a charming echo of 27A. Although it’s not clued as a “Warren Mercer 1938 hit,” as it has often been in past Times puzzles, the song still popped into my head instantaneously. I had no idea that JEEPERS CREEPERS was a “minced oath” (but what a great term).
3D. Carnegie Hall nearly met its demise in 1962, after the New York Philharmonic departed for Lincoln Center. ISAAC STERN, the violinist, persuaded New York City to purchase and preserve the building; in 1997, its main hall was named in his honor. If your musical interest is piqued, the violinist Joshua Bell is set to perform at Carnegie Hall’s annual Isaac Stern Memorial Concert on March 18.
15D. Puzzle people know that wordplay is afoot in this clue — “Juice boxes?” — because of its punctuation. Juice has been an idiom for electricity for ages, referring either to the flow of an electric current or to battery acid, so it makes sense that this clue refers to the CHARGERS we carry around as life support for our digital necessities.
22D. If you learned this poem in school, it probably burrowed its way into your memory, as it’s the epitome of catchy and lyrical, with an abrupt and unsettling ending. “We/ Jazz JUNE. We/ Die soon.” Gwendolyn Brooks’s explanation of her alliterative line, as well as her reading of her poem, is illuminative.
28D. I rather think that this consummate all-star, HANK AARON, is an echo of 3D (two biblical names, anyway).
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NYTimes Crossword Answer: On equal footing, in Latin – The New York Times