This week the Premier Crossword by Frank Longo reverts to riddle mode with a puzzle titled "The Nationalist and The Newborn". When the theme revolves around a riddle there's nothing to do but work through the clues and see what develops as the long theme answers aren't going to provide much help, at least at first. I went down a couple of rabbit holes as I worked through the grid but I eventually got it all straightened out to wind up staring at this groan-inducing riddle/answer set:
23a - IF YOU WERE TO FORCEFULLY
35a - YANK AWAY ONE OF INDIA'S
55a - FORMER PRIME MINISTERS
67a - AS HE WAS
78a - WATCHING OVER AN INFANT,
97a - WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
(Wait for it...)
116a-TAKING GANDHI FROM A BABY!
As for the non-theme fill, as I said I took a few of wrong turns, all my own fault. I learned early-on that I don't know how to spell ANORAKS (4d - Arctic parkas) as I wanted the second "a" to be an "e", but google doesn't even offer that as a variant spelling so I can't use that as an excuse. On the other hand I think I was more than justified in wanting "Boisterous, loud laugh" (5d) to be HAr HAr, which I think is at least as good as HAW HAW - the fact that my wrong letters both crossed parts of the riddle didn't help matters, so it took quite a bit of head scratching to sort out. "Situated in the middle" (49d) was obviously CENTRal, until it wasn't, and once again a crossing riddle part was no help. It took CYANIDE (87a - Poison in many murder mysteries) to set me on the path to CENTRIC.
And who wouldn't think "Deviating off course" (101d) is errING, right? Wrong, and I as a life-long sailor should have had YAWING as my first instinct; again, my mistake masked part of the riddle for a while. What can I say? - I have a tendency to guess wrong sometimes, but I managed to get it all fixed but it wasn't pretty.
As usual there were a couple of entries or juxtapositions that caught my fancy (or irritated me, as the case may be):
- Sue Grafton is back in the grid with "Grafton's EIS for Evidence" (63a); Frank could have avoided that particular bit of overused cluing with any number of alternate citations - my personal preference would be for a reference to the international airport in the British Virgin Islands that uses those particular letters as its IATA airport code (really, I looked it up on the internet) but maybe a more useful way would be a reference to the solid state of water in Berlin?
- I really liked KISS (110d - Hug go-with) crossing NECKING (109a - Making out). I suppose if I wanted to torture the point I could add TANGOS (98d - Dances with dipping) and WIGGLE (99d - Squirm) to the picture as part of the foreplay. Oh wait, PETE'S WICKED (66d - Ale brand until 2011) is also involved, and there's a SATIN bridal gown (92d) that she probably insisted on before consenting to the ENTER (104d - Go in) phase, no doubt so he wouldn't just up and LEAVE (105d - Go out) right after. Damn, that's the story line for a tawdry romance novel, or at least a country song, right there.
- I just now got the joke at 112d, Firm cheese > BOSS; "firm" = "company" - get it? I admit I was totally misdirected by the earlier entry, Soft cheese > BRIE (96a). Well played, Frank Longo.
- CLYDE (18d - Bonnie's pal) reminds me of this, with which I will leave you for this week - Y'all come back, now!