Middleman (noun). 1 a trader who buys commodities from the producer and sells them to the retailer or, sometimes, directly to the consumer; 2 a go-between, intermediary; 3 theme of the New York Times puzzle, June 27, 2007, by Barbara Olson, revealed at 34A (Go-between, and a clue to 17-, 24-, 49- and 57-Across).
The four theme answers--each containing man in the middle--are:
17A: Newts and such (salaMANders)
24A: Take apart (disMANtle)
49A: Salon job (perMANent)
57A: Locale of Uhuru Peak (KiliMANjaro)
A fun theme...a bit of a challenge...spicy fill. What more could you ask of a Wednesday puzzle?
For starters, how about several mini-themes?
I don't think I've ever seen salamander in a puzzle, but there were other icky and/or slimy things, including 20A: Nocturnal beetle (scarab), 45D: Garden pests (snails), and 41D: Rarer than rare (tartare). Raw meat = not safe to eat. Ick.
And a musical mini-theme, with 14A: Bowed, in music (arco), 37A: Prized violin, briefly (Strad), and 32D: Soul mate? (heart). If you've ever taken piano lessons, you've played Heart and Soul.
Nice to see Spam clued as something other than junk email (40A: Canned fare since 1937). I guess I could have included that with icky and slimy things. Why it's a favorite food in Hawaii is beyond me when they could be eating fresh fish.
Did not know 1A: Great Trek participant of the 1830s (Boer), but was able to get it from the downs. That didn't help me much with 23A: Senior Saarinen (Eliel), because I didn't know 18D: Actress Powers of "Cyrano de Bergerac" (Mala). Could have been Mara, crossing with Elier.
Do not get why 37D: Wren's cathedral is St. Paul's. Was that the architect or something? Yep...Sir Christopher Wren. I was thinking bird, which is what they wanted me to think.
At opposite corners of the puzzle, we have 1D: Stout-legged hounds (bassets) and 43D: Old salts (sea dogs). Too bad the skinless hot dog wasn't in this one.
Speaking of dogs, our sweet Dooley managed to get into the shed this morning. The bad news...there's rat poison in there, and he got into it. The good news...I discovered it right away and was able to take immediate action. You don't need details. Anyway, he spent the day at the vet, getting a massive dose of Vitamin K. They expect a full recovery, since it was discovered so soon. If I hadn't seen him come out of the shed, I would never have known that he'd gotten into it. Dr. Koons said he would have died within a couple of days, and we would never have known what happened to him. Scary...from now on we'll make damn sure the shed is always locked. Stupid rats and mice. The only downside of living in a wooded area.
Favorite clues and/or answers include 38D: X marks it (the spot), 48D: Swindler's work (con job), and Trinity member (Son).
Least favorite: 34D: "__ mia!" (Mamma). That just looks wrong. I think it should be Mama. The only acceptable variation (IMOO) is Momma, and that just doesn't work. Mamma looks too much like it has something to do with mammary glands. But I just checked, and I guess that's the way it was spelled in the musical. What do I know?
I know that this is a wrap. See you tomorrow...