The first question to ask in looking at the Sunday puzzle is: what’s the likely nature of the “trick” of the theme. The first thing I check is whether the long clues have question marks at the end. If they do, as they do today, we know that the theme answers are puns in which the title of the puzzle (Toe Tags) this time, figure prominently.
If you know what a pun is, skip this paragraph, but if you’re sometimes thrown by them, read on: The most common wordplay is to take several common, everyday phrases, do something to them (the same “something” to every answer) and then give a clue that has nothing to do with the common expression, but literally fits the answer. The most common of these is adding a couple letters at the beginning, middle or end of the answer, but there have been many clever variants over the years. If the puzzle designer’s clever, they bring a little smile to your face when you figure them out.
So that’s what we have here. What makes this puzzle a bit challenging is that you really need to start getting some of the theme answers relatively early in the puzzle. Keep this in mind: A few of the clues refer to specifics (e.g. capital of Ecuador). You can safely bet they’ll be contained in the answers. If you don’t know Josip Broz’ more common name is, learn it today, you’ll use it many times in future puzzle solving.
10 Specific hints:
1. 5-Across Histoire de… : The answer word is a name that is the same as French and English. You do know this name.
2. 14-Down Leave surreptitiously: 2 words
3. 78-Down Orbital decay result: Think space shuttle
4. 56-Across More than ardent: Not a state you’d want to run up against
5. 99-Across Tiny pasta: I always wondered if this stuff was actually a pasta. Anyway, an alternate definition: “Approximately (spoken in a thick slavic accent)”
6. 55-Across Hands-free microphone place: No not the dashboard of your car. Think motivational speaker. Or don’t. I hate those guys!
7. 84.Down Seinfeld called him the “Picasso of our generation.” Remember Seinfeld’s profession. The man he’s talking about had a bit too much burning ambition at some points in his career.
8. 51-Down Sang in the moonlight, maybe: Think four-legged animal, not Romeo
9. 57-Down Learn fast, say: The clue is fine, but most of us know that it’s more like trying to learn fast, not necessarily succeeding.
10. 25-Down Sonata segment: The music, not the car, in case you were wondering. Boston Celtic fans probably don’t realize this talented guy was also a part of a musical opus.