Theme of the day
If you follow their symmetrical arrangement, you could tell that there are six thematic entries in the sleepers, as well as a revealer. But when you get the revealer, you realize that it encompasses a lot of words that are not included in the smaller set of themes. What we really have is a themed letter, which matches Mr. Charlson’s style to a T (if that letter only had a higher Scrabble score).
By the way, this revealer is crucial to understanding the title of today’s puzzle, “Snoozefest,” but it’s a one-way street – I haven’t done much with the title until now. get the whole puzzle done, when he gave me a laugh, but I don’t think that helps to solve. In fact, this puzzle solves as a really large unthemed grid (21×22, if you count the columns), with interesting letter recurrence, until you come to this revealing.
Here is what I mean. I chose the crosses first, throwing a sure thing in them here and there. I had OZZIE, ARROZ and NANTZ before I even got to one of the longest entries I knew immediately at 86-Across, a reference to another word game – “Wheel of Fortune” and its PRIZES PUZZLES. That’s Mr. Charlson’s specialty – his first puzzle was around “XX” and he made Saturday puzzles full of Q and J – so I figured the letter Z was part of the current game ( “catching Z’s” didn’t occur to me while solving, although it does now).
Among other cultural references, the most recent was easy for me too (it’s a clickbait, by the way). I did not find the Dr. Seuss entry in the center, which has a suitably wacky origin story; this is a start and it will probably remain the Times crossword entry with the Z plus for some time, unless Mr. Charlson can persuade someone to name a newly discovered species the Zzzhuzhinzizziz Zezzle Zephyr butterfly. (or mushroom or other).
At 22-Across, the “misnamed tongue twister bear” is kind of unhappy Easter eggs – support me. I’m sure most of us learned this one in our childhood and didn’t think about it – FUZZY WUZZY wasn’t very fuzzy, wuz he? – but there are those who know the origin of the character, and I am now among them. It was originally a colonialist poem by Rudyard Kipling, and it is terribly offensive. I thought briefly that maybe “Fozzy Wozzy” might make sense for the muppet (nah), and Mr. Charlson could also have used “fizzy wizzy”, a magic candies from the Harry Potter books. But if you think about it, these two references are almost definitely derived from Fuzzy Wuzzy, so we would ultimately be back where we started. This is definitely not the first children’s verse with an ugly background, and it won’t be the last.
The old RAZZLE DAZZLE isn’t difficult once you know what you’re looking for – come to think of it, once you start looking, a lot of entries start to fall into place. you will see that there are reduplications, and some double Z double; you will also notice double Zs among the lows, like JAZZ DUET and TIZZY.