Happy Spring! Soon there will be more than snowdrops and a few crocus popping up around the yard, and days - already seeming longer thanks to Daylight Saving Time - will be warmer, too. Here's hoping things continue to improve for us all this year.
Today's puzzle is a promising sign. With triple 11s and 9s in the four corners, and a weird Easter egg kind of shape in the middle, this had a lot going for it before I even filled in any letters! And then it got even better.
The Ali reference (TRASHTALKER (Muhammad Ali was one, famously)) at 1A is an excellent start. Then off of that you get some pretty nice Downs - TEASE (Flirt), RACER (One who's in the heat?) (perhaps playing off the flirt/TEASE clue - nice), STOKE (Incite), ABSCONDED (Made a quick getaway), and the fun Jewish Deli pair of KNISH and RYE. Not bad for what could be seen as filler words. Then, once you have all that in place, you find ACHORUSLINE (Show that opens with "I Hope I Get It") and the 15-Across clue "Animal that produces eggs once a year." I thought ... Well, I don't most animals do that? Is it a turtle? the weirdo platypus? ... but no, it's the EASTERBUNNY. Ha! Very, very nice.
One more thing before we leave the NW - I can't be the only person who dropped ERNESTO (Che Guevara's real first name) in thanks to the Monty Python sketch "World Forum." I think I was also able to drop in Lenin's real last name once in a previous puzzle for the same reason.
Anywho... there's so much good material in here! ITALIANFLAG (It flies around Florence), PETSTORES (Places to buy food you wouldn't want to eat yourself), SOMMELIER (One helping you find a cab?)... EARGASM (Sensation from a song that you're really, really into, slangily)! Ms. Carroll really SMASHED it with this one. The only thing that stood out at all as gluey was ATTA (Flour in Indian cuisine), but I'm actually happy to not see it clued with "____ girl" or "____ boy," and I learned something about what goes into one of my favorite bread products - naan!
This was a GRAND (K) finale to the week of puzzles for me. I was happy to see Ms. Carroll's byline, and once again, she delivered. Thanks!