NYTimes crossword answer: Rubylike gem – The New York Times

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Brad Wiegmann’s puzzle reminds us that there are plenty of strange, strange fish in the sea.
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SUNDAY PUZZLE — You’ve all probably been wondering what Brad Wiegmann has been up to since we last saw him, rhapsodizing on the miracle of life, or first saw him, when he streaked onto the Sunday Times puzzle scene, full of raw energy.
Today’s theme works well with the above and revolves around another one of life’s little gantlets through which most of us run. ’Tis better to solve and get stumped than never to have tried to solve at all!
This whole puzzle is congenial with a nice smile, but then I noticed some sharp teeth and irreverent winks. Intersections like ULAN and OLIN and BAO and BON are great little grace notes, and there are several puns that take a beat or two to figure out.
31A. “Nonstarters” refers to a BULLPEN, which made me think of Ferdinand, who liked to smell the flowers. But we’ve actually got a sports pun here, for the area where relief pitchers bide their time at a baseball game.
45A. Well, I certainly used to get “depressed during exams,” but that’s neither here nor there in the context of this clue, a reference to the Popsicle stick a doctor holds against your TONGUE during a checkup.
3D. I’ve watched scenes from “Cars” over the years with various small people, but never really distinguished between characters and the actual “cars” they embody, so this entry filled in completely via crossing letters and looked like MO DELT for a while instead of the classic Ford MODEL T.
13D. This actor has been in the Times puzzle many times, all with trivia clues, but this is the first time that the “Tonight Show” is the reference. Born Dallas Frederick Burrows, ORSON BEAN had a stage name with a funny origin story.
41D. Another sports pun — “Time out” is most likely a moment to confer at a pivotal point in a game, or the whole off-season of a sport. In this case, it refers to the N.B.A.’s ALL STAR BREAK, which I thought was hard to figure out.
58D. This is a neat bit of gem trivia for people who love shiny things; it’s appeared here and there in the puzzle since 1955. The SPINEL is far lesser known than the ruby, but its popularity is growing.
76D. Last sports reference, I think! NOTRE DAME is both a famous French cathedral (due to reopen in 2024 after a horrible fire) and an Indiana university represented by the “Fighting Irish.”
Up for a rom-com? Today’s theme set consists of scenes from six failed relationships and, just when you think your main character is destined for solitude, a successful love match. Fortunately there are no true disasters, just funny foibles, the kind you laugh about with your friends over a few cases of wine.
Each theme clue is in italic and identifies a trait in a mate — one is a longhaired hippie, one a bit of a hermit; there’s a hockey player and a mountaineer, and each fellow sets up a particular idiom as a punchline.
To set the scene, our looker for love meets a nonbeliever at 22-Across: “It’s tough finding the right person. My first boyfriend was a perfectly nice atheist, but he …” HAD NO PRAYER. On the one hand, I’m all for freedom of religion; on the other hand, poor fella!
The next two theme clues, at 28-Across and 48-Across, highlight characteristics in two guys that can coexist in one person (speaking from experience). The first is a “fun couch potato” — no judgment, things just DIDNT WORK OUT; the second is a “recluse” — as you can imagine, that romance CAME TO NOTHING.
There are three more false starts: At 66-Across, gravity gently ruins a potential tryst with a “rock climbing instructor.” At 80-Across, same problem, basically, but anyone chasing a “Pittsburgh Penguin” should know they’re not likely to soar with the eagles, shouldn’t they? And, at 104-Across, caveat emptor: If you’re not into long, luscious locks, you should probably just nip that crush on “a hippie” in the bud — he’s obviously glad to have MISSED THE CUT, so just let it be!
Fortunately for all of us, our picky friend finally meets a match at 110-Across. Cue the swirling cape and the white doves: A “charming magician” has entered the chat. To everyone’s relief, it looks as if the gentleman with the rabbit in a hat has finally DONE THE TRICK.
Q: So Brad, tell me, is this puzzle autobiographical in any way?
A: Do you mean, like, did I ever do Jell-O shots on Marine One with Katie Couric and Orson Bean? No, but it sounds like fun.
Q: No, I mean the whole dating thing. I’m assuming, just based on your personality, you’ve been in a lot of failed relationships.
A: I wouldn’t say a lot. I did date a ski racer briefly, but she went downhill fast. Then there was this cute limbo dancer. I really liked her.
Q: What happened there?
A: She went belly up.
Q: Kind of like your puzzle. A flop.
A: Art imitates life, I guess. Or is it life imitates art? I forget.
Q: Honestly, I really wish you’d do something more creative with your puzzles, like The Times usually does. Shakespeare quotes that contain anagrams of breakfast cereals; a connect-the-dots picture of Gandhi — anything? Come on, man.
A: Well, I did have “PEP” in this one. Upper right corner. It’s a palindrome — the same spelled forward AND backward. Pretty cool.
Q: And you have “KETONE” at 42 across. What the heck is that?
A: Not sure. But it did fit quite nicely there.
Q: [Sigh]
A: What about you — how’s your love life going?
Q: If you must know, I had been dating this Marxist professor. Kind, intelligent, funny — and totally hot. But I just broke up with him.
A: Why?
Q: He just wasn’t right.
A: Maybe it’s for the best.
🌻 🌻 🌻
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