Wednesday, July 6, 2022, Kent Smith

Title/Theme: Strength up the Middle

Puzzling thoughts:

Chairman Moe here, pinch-hitting for Melissa Bee, and what an appropriate puzzle as it has a baseball theme! This may be Kent Smith's debut puzzle as I could not find a "tag" for him on Google or Crossword Fiend. I hope that he knows about our "hot corner", and takes a seventh-inning stretch to stop by and say hello

Kent uses a trio of baseball positions to add a play-on-words to a job, a movie title, and a couple of plural nouns. All three of the entries are well-known without the added "ER" to the first word. Still confused? Well, allow me my time at bat and I'll try to touch all bases

17-Across. Catching fly balls, turning double plays, etc.?: FIELDER WORK. Baseball has nine "fielding" positions, as diagrammed in my opening image. All nine of these "FIELDERs" can catch a fly ball or turn a double-play. FIELD WORK, on the other hand, is [per Nat Geo] "... the process of observing and collecting data about people, cultures, and natural environments. Field work is conducted in the wild of our everyday surroundings rather than in the semi-controlled environments of a lab or classroom"

And as a side note, the reason I chose the title/theme name "Strength up the Middle", is because in baseball, the teams most likely to succeed have excellent players at the positions marked by the numbers 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8 in the above diagram

26-Across. Like an ace who throws a no-hitter?: PITCHER PERFECT. The PITCHER is arguably the most important position on a baseball team. For reference, Major League Baseball (MLB) teams are allowed to carry 26 players on their roster, of which 13 (or one-half) are PITCHERs. The pitching staff generally includes 4 or 5 starters, 7 or 8 relievers, and 1 closer. PITCH PERFECT is the name of a trio of movies. There is a rumor that PITCH PERFECT 4 may release later this year

44-Across. "Protect the plate," "Don't drop the ball," e.g.?: CATCHER PHRASES. Ahh, the CATCHER. Rumor has it that Chairman Moe began his baseball playing days (at age 8) as a CATCHER. Sorry that I don't have any pictures to share; but I definitely thought it was cool to put on the tools of ignorance!

Examples of CATCH PHRASES: "Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!" Or: "Live long and prosper"; Or: "Lucy, you got some splaining to do!" Or (and a CSO to our board member, Picard: "Make it so".

My first thought about what a CATCH PHRASE is turned out just to be a Yogism

And the reveal @ 61-Across. Game rosters, one of which is formed by the starts of three long answers in this puzzle?: PLAYER LISTS. Dadgummit, I sooo wanted to be awed and amazed by this Kent Smith work. But the reveal uses a one-word parody (PLAYLISTS) versus the other three entries which use a two-word (FIELD WORK, PITCH PERFECT, CATCH PHRASES).

OK Moe; lighten up. You are still a rookie in this whole crossword construction biz, ya know. Still, continuity should count; so I won't be calling Kent Smith an all-star just yet. I did enjoy his debut, though, and look forward to his next "start"

Let's toss the grid into this part of the lineup, and then see how Mr. Smith managed his game ...

1. Construction rod: REBAR. I bet that Ray-O-Sunshine has a clever "daffynition" for this ;^)

6. 1960s Israeli deputy prime minister: EBAN.

10. Shed tears: CRY. Something that big girls don't do

13. "Five Feet of Fury" pro wrestler Bliss: ALEXA. I have no knowledge of the pro wrestler Bliss, but I DO know who speaks on the "Dot". Moe-ku:

Siri? ALEXA?
Only way to tell? Is there
An Echo in here??

14. Alfa __: sports car: ROMEO. CSO to Anonymous T (or -T, if you will). His LIcrisisFE purchase??

16. Jack Reacher creator __ Child: LEE. I guess that Peggy LEE is too retro for this audience

19. Have lunch: EAT. One of the three square meals per day ...

20. Epic featuring the Trojan Horse: AENEID. "The AENEID is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who fled the fall of Troy and travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It comprises 9,896 lines in dactylic hexameter" [Wikipedia]

21. Yann Martel novel adapted into an Oscar-winning film: LIFE OF PI. This book

23. "Chandelier" singer: SIA. Not the music I listen to, but YMMV

25. Tonsillectomy MD: ENT. I hear that Ear Nose and Throat doctors are among the highest paid in the medical field ... or maybe, I just made that up

34. Job safety org.: OSHA.

35. River craft: CANOE. So many to choose from, but CANOE rowed MY boat

36. Trendy: HIP. Huey Lewis and the News sang it best:

38. Take in: EARN. It literally means your NET salary, but I always discussed it as your GROSS salary! ;^)

39. Intro to economics?: MACRO. Micro versus MACRO economics

40. Kunis of "Bad Moms": MILA.

41. Astronaut Jemison: MAE. A true heroine

42. Reason for a sleep mask, perhaps: APNEA. My partner uses one of these:

43. __ 500: INDY. The winner of this race (and his crew) kisses the yard of bricks at the finish line. The winner also drinks milk. Pretty cool and unique traditions for a major sporting event!

48. Hanukkah mo.: DEC. I dunno why, but when I saw this clue, I wondered if Kent was looking for the Hebrew name, but KIS didn't fit the other crossing words ...

49. Extra: TOO. As an adverb, this clue works

50. Enters nonchalantly: AMBLES IN. I almost NEVER think about being nonchalant, but am often nonplussed. Speaking of which, can you be "chalant" or "plussed"? As in the opposite of?? Go ahead and Google it. I dare you!!

55. Rhine wine region: ALSACE. As your resident wine geek/sommelier, I was quite pleased when I saw the outcome of this clue. I could write a separate blog about ALSACE, but this webite [Wine Folly] is wonderful for explaining it all. Fun fact: Chairman Moe spent over a week in ALSACE in 2015 when he was in the wine business

60. Grassy expanse: LEA. Sophomoric Moe-ku:

"What's the source, you asked,
Of Cow Pies?" I'll tell ya: They
Come from Sara LEA

63. Links goal: PAR. As in playing golf; and a CSO to the many foursomes of golfers here on the blog. Fun Fact: Many of my friends who solve the WORDLE each day refer to getting 4/6, as a PAR

64. Big cat: TIGER. And since this clue follows a PAR, how about THIS big cat? Note the head cover, TOO. It's name is "Frank"

65. Extreme: ULTRA. And while we are on a mini golf tour, why not provide an image of this "ULTRA"? Husker Gary, do you recall these clubs? They were basically Wilson Staff irons with Walter Hagen's endorsement. Guessing that increased the price by a few bucks ...

66. Laudatory verse: ODE, which is also a part of 26-Down: (66-Across, for one:) POEM. CSO to Owen KL

67. Reusable bag: TOTE.

68. Forms puddles: POOLS.

1. Nickname for tennis's Nadal: RAFA. Check out his most recent major victory romp at the French Open

2. "Night" writer Wiesel: ELIE. His biography [Wikipedia]

3. "__ waiting long?": BEEN. Sometimes it feels like it ...

4. Bridge toll unit: AXLE. Clever clue for this. Most toll roads and/or bridges charge "by the vehicle's AXLE"

5. Salad slice: RADISH. Fun Fact: Their green leaves are edible, TOO. BTW, this is Chairman Moe's most favorite salad slice. I can usually purchase them for around $0.50 a bunch at a local farmer's market

6. Make a mistake: ERR. This was recently clued (last Wednesday) as: "Throw wide of the cutoff man, say". I think that it would've made more sense to have it in today's puzzle (regardless of its accuracy) as it keeps with the baseball theme ...

7. Many a New Year's Day football game: BOWL. Why do they call a NYD football game a "BOWL", you ask? Here is the answer

8. French possessive: AMOI. An old CATCH PHRASE (well, maybe a quip) attributed to the Three Stooges, perhaps: "When I was in college, I had a French minor. But her visa expired, and I had to send her home!" Nyuk, nyuk

9. Soft toy brand: NERF. I wonder if they ever made a soft toy in the shape of an anagram for NERF?

10. Dimpled facial features: CLEFT CHINS. Look for your favorite actor/actress with a CLEFT CHIN, here

11. Collect in return: REAP. Moe-ku:

A seamstress once said,
"You should pre-sell your wares or
You'll REAP what you sew

12. Mysterious Himalayan: YETI. This exact clue for YETI was last used back on October 3, 2019

15. "The Great Santini" Oscar nominee Michael: O'KEEFE. "The Great Santini" movie was based on a book written by Pat Conroy; also the author of The Prince of Tides. Here is a trailer for the movie. Quite a different role for O'KEEFE compared to that of Danny Noonan in Caddyshack

18. Falco of "Nurse Jackie": EDIE. Also the matriarch of the Soprano family

22. United: ONE. "Airlines" wouldn't fit

24. Esoteric: ARCANE. Somehow, these two words almost begged to become synonyms! ;^)

27. "Moon Knight" star Oscar __: ISAAC. Moon Knight is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics; quite the biography

28. Worn through, as carpeting: THREADBARE. Moe-ku:

The actress Bara
Was shown wearing worn-out clothes.

29. Put up preserves: CAN. And here I thought they used a JAR for preserves ...

30. Indiana cager: PACER. Thanks for the sports clue, but when I think of PACER, this image comes to mind

31. Spellbound: ENRAPT. Try as I could, I found no evidence that these two adjectives are synomnyms

32. "Christopher Robin" joey: ROO. From Winnie the Pooh

33. Squiggly diacritic: TILDE. What do you call a Señora who likes to dance, likes her kids, and is fond of diacritics? WALTZING MA TILDE

37. Grabs the check: PAYS. I guess that "grabbing" the check is a bit less generous than if someone were to say, "I'll take the check, please", and TREAT the table

39. Speed letters: MPH. Phew! For a brief second, I wondered if there was a three-letter abbreviation for D-amphetamine

40. "Mamma __! Here We Go Again": MIA. ABBA hit tune

42. Go along with: ACCEPT. Something I am doing as it relates to the new style of puzzle themes, entries, and clues at the LA Times Crossword

45. __ Aviv: TEL. Is there any other three-letter word that can proceed "Aviv"?

46. Icy coating: HOAR.

47. Opposite of unfurl: ROLLUP. FOLDUP could fit, if it were referring to a flag

50. Kibble brand: ALPO. What you call a garden tool in Switzerland? ALPO

51. Honeyed brew: MEAD.

52. Narrow cut: SLIT.

53. Shakespearean villain: IAGO. William Shakespeare's play, Othello, features a particularly evil character who ruins the lives of everyone around him. IAGO is the antagonist, or enemy to the other heroic figures, who convinces Othello that his wife, Desdemona, is having an affair with Cassio

54. Russian denial: NYET. What you call an alien visitor to the Big Apple? NYET

56. Grain storage site: SILO.

57. On the topic of: AS TO.

58. PC keyboard key: CTRL. One of the keys of the so-called, "three-finger salute" (CTRL/ALT/DEL); though the current generation might associate "three-finger salute" with The Hunger Games

59. Those, in Spanish: ESAS. CSO to Lucinda, y los que hablan español

62. Bard's before: ERE.

Thanks, CC for giving me this opportunity to pinch-hit for Melissa. My next AT BAT occurs (I believe) on Friday the 22nd. See you then!