29D. The “plural that makes one wonder why there is no meese” is GEESE (because the plural of “goose” is GEESE but for some reason the plural of “moose” is just…” moose”).
34D. This is the one I had to get crosses – a “cotton fabric named after a French town” is LISLE, a textile apparently named after the town of Lille.
The theme of this puzzle is revealed at 65A: “DC Baseball Players…or What the Ends of 17, 21, 39, and 55-Across Look Like.” The DC baseball players in question are the NATIONALS, and each of the identified entries ends with a word that is a homophone of a group of NATIONALS from another country.
The first of these, at 17A, is EXIT POLLS (“Data Sources for Election Day Coverage”) – here, POLLS is a homophone for “Poles”, the demonym of Poles. Likewise, at 21A we have NECK TIES (“Accessories that may feature Windsor knots”), in which TIES sounds like THAIS, the word for NATIONALS of Thailand. The two remaining thematic entries match this pattern similarly, with OVERSIZED CHECKS (“Czechs”) and TAIL FINS (“Finns”).
As I mentioned above, this is a nice beginner’s puzzle to try for crossword beginners – the theme is simple, but substantial enough to offer a taste of the type of game of words that a crossword puzzle can offer.
Now let’s listen to Mr. Youngs talk about the evolution of this puzzle:
The original idea for this puzzle involved removing -LAND from country names and finding sentences that ended with the remaining letters. But the archetype of “the end of each theme may be followed by X” is rather outdated, so the idea has evolved into demonyms and homophones. My apologies to the Danes, but DEIGNS is not a name and doesn’t really have good phrases.
If it seems that the clues rely heavily on country names or their adjectival forms, this is a deliberate attempt to emphasize the theme. Thanks to the editorial team for changing my rambling hint to KOLN: “German name of a German town whose English name is actually French.”
Finding a new clue for the rather common ALL, I learned that the translation of “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate”, from Dante’s “Hell”, has a few different translations, and the location of ALL is not always the same, although it seems that the closest translation would be: “Abandon all hope, you who enter here. It must be difficult to translate a poem while trying to preserve the rhyme scheme and meter. There is always something interesting to discover while writing and looking for clues.
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