Today's time: 18:45.
Gary Larson tries to UP THE ANTE in difficulty. The themed (across) phrases have the letters ante in them, but these are not written out across. Instead, that part of the clue goes northwards, or UP, and then you continue reading across as normal. At first, I thought the ante part went into one box, as in a rebus, but eventually the penny(-ante?) dropped and I realized the visual joke.
So "where you might be a criminal" is WAD POSTER, with the ETNA being the cross clue at A that provides the ante part. "Coming-out party" is DEBUTA BALL, crossed with PET NAMES providing the raised ante. And so on. My favorite reveal is DAS INFERNO, which sounds like the German film adaptation (it crosses with WET-NAP).
Abraham BEAME was the 104th mayor of New York, presiding 1974-77 during the city's financial crisis.
TAG UP for "touch base" baffled me for a good long time. I thought it was about the game of tag, but no, silly most-clueless American male about sports, it's a baseball term. Basically it means you have to stay on your base when the ball is caught by a fielder.
SPARTA was known to the Greeks as Lacedaemon. Thus the lambda as their symbol. The city-state proper was called Lacedaemon, while Sparta referred to their main settlement.
Never heard of her department: Santha Rama RAU was an Indian travel writer. She was the first Indian to be accepted at Wellesley College in Massacusetts.
Here are the people named ANA we've seen in puzzles so far: ANA Gasteyer of SNL today, ANA Navarro the CNN commentator on December 17, and ANA Cabrera the CNN journalist on August 25. Moral? If you want to be a crossword champ, study your Anas.
Crossword mainstay Mt. ETNA is "SW of Messina," a major city in Sicily located on the eastern border of the island, right by Italy's boot toe.
Note to self: the food thickener obtained from algae is called AGAR. Daminozide is a growth regulator, often mislabeled a pesticide, that is commonly called Alar. Don't confuse them!
ALFA was a class of super-fast Soviet submarines developed in the Cold War.
It is instructive to remember that IRAN is on the Gulf of Oman, while Iraq borders the Persian Gulf. Iran is to the east of Iraq and bordered by the t.a.p.stans --- Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan --- on the east.
Clever clues: "Something a Mississippi cheerleader repeatedly calls for" is AN I. "Volcanoes develop over them" is EONS.
Sigh. I guess all's well that ENDS slowly.
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