NYTimes Crossword answer: Algae, at times – The New York Times

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Ashton Anderson and James Mulhern team up to surprise us with a gnarly Saturday puzzle.
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SATURDAY PUZZLE — I imagine that the two constructors of today’s puzzle broke into sly smiles like the above alligator’s on more than one occasion while devising this obstacle course. The constructors, Ashton Anderson and James Mulhern, have conspired before, on a Friday grid in 2017. (That one has some similarities to today’s themeless, including a “name that tune” clue.)
All of the long entries in this puzzle’s center triple stack are debuts and unusual. I struggled far more with the clues above than the clues below, and on the whole I think this grid is pretty far to the right on the tough-o-meter, but it was neat and satisfying to finish.
Some of the diciest spots in this grid for my solve were three-letter entries, which I often find a little demoralizing, but these are all fun. For “Fan belt?” I wrote “obi,” thinking of fans as accouterments to kimonos, instead of OLE, which I gather is something that fans loudly belt at football games. I had no idea that GRU, the villain in “Despicable Me,” is voiced by Steve Carell. (The character has been clued several times in the past, but never in reference to Mr. Carell.) The “Bank in London, for example: Abbr.” refers to a tube stop, or station, or STA — I tried “ltd.” at first, as it’s a common business abbreviation in Britain and elsewhere. And, for PAW, think of what you’d see if you were to be facing Marmaduke as the famous Great Dane put up his “dukes” (depending on your height).
1A. I didn’t fully understand this clue until just *now* as I’m metaphorically putting pen to paper. The “arms” in this clue, “Wave one’s arms?,” are weaponry — whatever someone could BRANDISH. (A pea shooter, maybe?)
16A. This lyrical snippet is exuberant — rhyming “Pagliacci” with “Liberace” — but it’s not in the chorus of this song and it took some crosses for MR SANDMAN to emerge as the answer. My timeline was also all wrong — I think of Liberace as a celebrity of the 1960s, but he and his “wavy hair” were well known by 1954, when the song was first released. It has since been recorded many times, and it is a wonderful showcase for harmonizing.
25A. The “zip” in this clue, “Lacking zip?,” means nada, zilch. If you’re lacking nothing, then you’ve got everything: You’re ENTIRE.
34A. Befuddled, I muddled through several descriptions of CUDDLE PUDDLEs in pre-Covid media, some safe for Wordplay, some NSFW for various reasons. This term rings no bells for me, and I initially guessed “cuddle huddle,” which admittedly sounds as if it’d be vertical rather than horizontal. LEPER, at 30D, clears up that confusion (and makes for a disturbing intersection in the middle of this puzzle).
3D. Two hard dental clues at the top of this puzzle: This one refers to a “tube” of toothpaste, which often comes with an ADA endorsement; at 9A, your ORAL B electric toothbrush might take “replacement heads.”
13D: This entry is a debut, which surprised me; like a lot of organic matter, algae is undergoing research as a BIOFUEL and substitute for diesel and gasoline.
22D. There’s something about the word DIRNDL for a crossword solver that just scratches that itch — four consonants at the end, I guess.
31D. Herman Melville’s settings are popular puzzle fodder — we often find an “Omoo” or “Typee” in a grid — but I was stumped looking for the longer entry here. I’ve never read this novella, “The Encantadas” (or “enchanted isles”); but it takes place in the GALAPAGOS. This is one of a cluster of smart trivia clues in this corner, which include references to Charles ALSTON, the painter, sculptor and illustrator, and to the SNARE drum in “Bolero” and its 4,000-note repetitive underpinning.
Ashton: In the early days of the pandemic, James and I suddenly had some time on our hands to collaborate on a puzzle again, and today’s offering is the result. I made the central stagger-stack and left James with the difficult task of filling the rest. Enjoy!
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