GIVE ME A BREAK!
Today the "break" of the title is, as it often is, a re-parsing of one word into two, with punny results. My favorite is the one it took me the longest to understand - DEPARTMENTALLY (Zone out?). "Depart, mentally." Ha. Sheesh. That's what I was doing for much of my solve, as this maybe took me twice as long as usual. The other two in the top three were SUPPOSITION (Seat at the dining table?) and CONTEXTUALLY (Swindle by instant messaging?).
This one just played hard for me. There were drop-ins, sure, like DARCY ("Pride and Prejudice" surname, CASPIANSEA (World's largest inland body of water), SEPIATONES (Some vintage photo tints), and even ERAS (The ____ Tour (2023 Taylor Swift concert series that broke Ticketmaster), but then there were trickier ones, like OBTRUDES (Becomes unduly prominent), BARPIN (Long, narrow piece of jewelry) (and I even have one of these sitting on my bureau!), and BRUT (More than just a sec?) (Oooh... tricksy! Think champagne.). And somewhat appropriately, some that took me the longest to see required a break or two to make multiple words out of the letter strings - "Extra crisp, informally" (HIDEF), "Predecessor of a USB drive" (PCCARD), and "Forty winks" (AFEWZS) (OMG).
Speaking of OMG, that clue, "Initial shock?" was lovely. As was "Sea change?" for TIDE. And "One in the hand?" for ACE. Elegant, really, this cluing. And I loved the exclamation point in the clue "Word has it!" for ETYMOLOGY. Heh. And the simplicity of "It comes after nine but not ten" (TEEN). Puzzles like this put me in a better mood and make me think that maybe there is some good in the world. So thanks for that.
Frannie takes over tomorrow. If you're down in Stamford in a couple weeks, I'll see you there, otherwise, I'll be back in April. Happy puzzling!