I quickly figured out the “trick” — adding the letter “i” to the end of one of the words in the answer thus making a familiar phrase kind of wacky. I finished in two sittings.
I knew that everything I had filled in was correct, but I was totally mystified by 66 Down. The clue: “bit of gossip.” The answer: “ondit.” Not a word familiar to me. I checked my Random House Unabridged Dictionary. Not in there. So I Googled and discovered a very interesting website. Rex Parker does the NYT crossword puzzle every day, posts the answers, and discusses various aspects of each puzzle.
As it happens, for today’s puzzle, his word of the day is — ondit. Nice that even he considers it enough of a puzzlement to highlight it. Turns out, its origin is French. Boy, am I feeling très stupide! How could I have not recognized “on dit,” meaning “one speaks.” After all, I can read, write, and speak French. When I then showed M the word, he immediately recognized the French. Made me feel even dumber! But he soothed my somewhat battered ego by commenting that while he might have outdone me in the case of this one word, he could never finish this or any other Sunday puzzle. True enough. Anyhoosle, the meaning of ondit is “a rumor.”
There was another answer Rex helped me out with. The clue for 72 Down is “Lancelot portrayer, 1967.” The answer: “Nero.” Who? The only Nero I could think of was the one who let Rome go up in smoke. In this case, it’s Franco Nero. In the movie version of Camelot, he played the role originated on Broadway by Robert Goulet. I’ve never seen the movie, which is probably why I blanked on Franco.
Rex rates the difficulty level of each puzzle. Today’s: Medium. Actually, I found it relatively easy.