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AOK review:
Good afternoon crossword lovers!

How are you? More than anything, I hope that you’re actually enjoying spring-like weather wherever you are. It was so chilly here in New York to start the day that you can see your breath in front of you. Definitely something that I don’t associate with the month of May, but I’ll persist…I think!

If you’re counting down the days until it actually feels like spring as well, then today’s crossword was an aide to that countdown, as there literally is a countdown going on with each of the nine theme answers. But, here’s hoping you saw what happened with one of those bubbled areas. In the south end of the grid, there were two acceptable answers, thus producing a rebus. Either FOUR or FIVE was an acceptable entry, as “five” was the answer which referred to the “and another part of a countdown” portion of the clue. The clues for the three across entries underneath the “F” in four/five were two-part clues.

AL(O)NE/AL(I)NE (70A: [Without companions, or a Dior dress style])
RO(U)ES/RO(V)ES (75A: [Casanova types, or roams around])
ST(R)EP/ST(E)EP (78A: [Throat problem, briefly, or sharply inclined])

A-HA Moment (When I figured out the theme): At the very beginning (when I filled “TEN”) and at the very end of solving, when I was wondering, “What happened to FIVE?” When looking at the clue for ALONE/ALINE after I had finished, that’s when I knew that multiple letters were supposed to be in the bubbles, realizing at the same time that the “F” in four/five is the same and was used as somewhat of a ruse to throw you off the rebus path.

O-HO moment (Something I know now that I didn’t know before): I’ve never seen “Urinetown,” but I have a little familiarity with the characters and the plot line. What I definitely didn’t know was the musical number referenced in PEE (21A: [It’s a Privilege to ___” (“Urinetown” song)]). It’s privilege – and not a right – to pee, everyone!!!

OLIO (Other things of note): Loved the multiple clues used for DRAGNETS (23D: [Trawling devices, or crook-catching traps]). Were the entries of NO-NO (3D:
[Prohibited activity: Hyph.]) and TABOO signs that we should not be solving this grid in the first place (16A: [Prohibited activity])? Let’s hope not! With SET POINT being in the grid, would you believe me that I’m watching tennis at this moment (53A: Climactic tennis match situation: 2 wds.])? That’s definitely what I’m doing, watching five-time major champion Maria Sharapova in action.

Sportsball moment of the day: Would you believe that, just a couple of years ago, the man who coached arguably the most popular soccer team in the world was a man named TATA (1D: [Half of TTFN: 2 wds.])? Former Argentina national soccer player Gerardo “TATA” Martino currently is the manager of the Major League Soccer expansion franchise Atlanta United FC. In the 2013-14 season, he was the manager of FC Barcelona, the team that features the player widely regarded as the world’s best player, fellow Argentinean Lionel Messi. In another bit of coincidence, a photographer friend of mine went to shoot a soccer game yesterday between Tata’s current team, Atlanta United FC, and New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. I should have asked him to send a picture of Tata so we could post it on here, especially if I had known ahead of time that “ta-ta” would be an entry. Oh, well! Next time!

Until then, TA-TA for now, everyone! See you next Monday!

–AOK

Patrick’s thoughts:
I wondered if the numbers ONE through TEN could be placed symmetrically, and when I couldn’t find a way, I found a way to cheat. 🙂 FOUR and FIVE occupy the same boxes, with two clues being given for each crossing: ALONE/ALINE, ROUES/ROVES, and STREP/STEEP.

Only 35 theme squares, but lots of short entries makes it tricky. I tried to include a few longer answers to spice things up, and was happy to include LOISLANE and ASTEROID. The NW and SE corners are more closed off than I prefer, as is the grid in general. The nice thing about it is that I’m able to maintain a high level of fill quality with very few obscurities. MERE/DESI (as clued) is probably the trickiest spot.

The clues for IRA, EGO, and PEE were fun to write. It can be a challenge to come up with something new for a word that’s been used a million times.

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