5D: Amazingly, this is the first – this is a little l33tspeak which goes back to at least 2009 and I guarantee that many constructors have tried to fit it into the puzzle over the past decade. Hence, Mr Eaton-Salners’ own debut was PWN, pronounced “pone,” as in ancient corn bread. It comes from a simple typo – “P” for “O” – and I don’t know why it’s stuck in that term.
55D: Hilarious of the names on this grid (which are challenging, both personal and geographic). I had a very early hunch that 2D should include stew (before I knew it the real answer). When I saw this lead, “Stand-up comedian Mike,” I immediately thought that Mr. Eaton-Salners has included parts of “BirbigliaIn one box and must rise from the floor. Mike EPPS is a new one to me, and I think he’s new to the puzzle, even though Omar appears many times (it seems they are cousins). Another tough guy to me, ANNA LEE, has been on the grid for years – in 1985, you’d find out that his real name was Joan Winnifrith.
67D: There are some odd anatomical pieces to the puzzle today. This one, the MASTOID bone, was already on the grid before; IT BAND made its debut. This one is interesting because the “pole” in biology finds its origin two Greek roots, one means jaw or chewing, one means breast. IT BAND is an example of a path, or fibrous tissue – you guessed it, that is share root (meaning bandage, tightly wrapped) with fascism. Anyone who has ever been ruled by a strict IT group is nodding off now.
There are four pairs of theme entries today: They are all arranged at the top half of the grid and shown at the bottom. They are given various cryptic arrangements, like in one of the various puzzle books – there are boils, anagrams, and some redistributed words. This makes grids fun because you don’t just “get the hang of it” and know the theme formulas; this makes the grid more difficult, because you don’t just “get” and know the theme formula. But the tricks inform one another, and the title of the puzzle – “Playing With Food” – is a broad clue.
One rather cruel touch from Mr. Eaton-Salners is a top-notch stew-inducing single entry placement, at the intersection of 31A and 2D. General rejection anxiety led me to believe that every letter circled must be one too, so it was a little stressful (had to eat a snack) and I didn’t even know what stew was for a long time, I just knew it had to be one if you knew what it was. I mean.
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