26D. I had never heard a “Small ear of corn” called a NUBBIN, but apparently NUBBIN ears are an agricultural abnormality that may be caused by drought, a nitrogen or phosphorous deficiency, or a number of other causes.
57D. “‘Decorates’ as a prank, informally” is the clue for TPS, short for “toilet papers,” as in, “Every year on my birthday, my neighbor TPS my house, and every year it becomes increasingly difficult to clean up.” This example may or may not be based on a true story.
This puzzle features four theme entries that are all the names of flowers that have been clued as though their names were literal. First up is BABY’S BREATH with the clue “What might smell of Gerber products?” I can’t say that I’ve spent much time sniffing the breath of babies, but if I were to imagine what actual BABY’S BREATH smells like, I think it would indeed be like the mushy jarred foods made by Gerber.
Next up is WOLF’S BANE (“The third “little pig,” with his house of bricks?”). Per the story of “The Three Little Pigs,” it is the house of bricks that the villainous wolf is unable to blow down, making it his bane. The third theme entry is GOLDENROD (“Award for a champion angler?”), which might be envisioned as a trophy shaped like a GOLDEN fishing ROD.
Finally, we have the entry LADY SLIPPER (“Object found by Prince Charming after the clock struck midnight?”), an orchid whose name also describes the shoe Cinderella misplaces in her rush to leave Prince Charming’s ball before midnight. I tried to fit an extra S in there to make it LADY’s SLIPPER, but there was only room for the one, which is also an accepted spelling of the flower’s name.
This is a cute and simple theme that is well-executed — kudos to Ms. Gervase on this floral debut!
I’ve always had a soft spot for puzzle themes that play on common phrases — this puzzle’s inspiration is the phrase “say it with flowers.” Historically, many flower species were used to symbolize a specific message or emotion; I had the pleasure of reimagining what certain flowers could signify if interpreted in a more literal sense. Thankfully, I had no shortage of whimsically named flowers to work with for this puzzle.
I want to give a big shout-out to Wyna Liu from the New York Times Crossword editorial team for all her guidance throughout this process. Robin Weintraub generously answered many of my new-constructor questions, and Penelope Williams and Miranda Copps (my crossword buddies) offered helpful feedback as I worked through construction. Thank you, all!
I hope that flower lovers and crossword lovers alike enjoy this puzzle!
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