Like records that are easily broken? [5]

I was thinking of classic VINYL records right off the bat, because of how easily they break, and wound up second-guessing myself because of that question mark, thinking that maybe it had to do with some other sort of record. But no, the seed here was “record breaking” in the athletic sense, so I guess now we know which one of us was prone to destructive tantrums as a child.

Mathematician whose name sounds like a fuel ship [5]

Maybe it’s because of all the cryptics that I solve, but I love hybrid clues: they provide users with two distinct ways to make that connection. In this case, the trivia alone is fairly helpful–there aren’t many famous five-letter mathematicians–but the homophonic part solidifies that answer: EULER, which, despite how it’s spelled, sounds a lot like “oiler.”

Initiates badly? [5]

I don’t think I’ve ever been initiated into an organization, except maybe the Key Club, so I can’t say for sure how an initiation is supposed to go. But if you’ve seen any sort of college comedy, you probably agree that the notorious HAZES of frat-pledging students are probably less than goodly.

  • Ruth Bloomfield Margolin, The New York Times, 6/22/17

Pitchfork-wielding assemblage [3]

I love overly complicated clues for short words: they delightfully obfuscate, which is, when you think about it, all that a crossword does. Don’t go thinking that “assemblage” refers to some sort of machinery–instead, the clue is basically talking about a group of people with pitchforks, or as Frankenstein’s monster might call them, a MOB.

  • Bruce Haight, The New York Times, 6/21/17

Bar at a roast [4]

Should I ever become famous enough to be roasted, I’ll certainly need a bar, but that’s not what this clue is talking about. Instead, we’re talking about the sort of roast that might occur at a luau, and the bar that’d be found there is most likely the SPIT that’s helping to evenly cook the meat.

  • David Steinberg, The New York Times, 6/8/17

Leave nothing behind? [5]

I have a lot of mixed feelings about our culture’s emphasis on “tipping,” but I can absolutely agree that the word used to describe “leave nothing behind (on your bill)” is STIFFS.

  • Derek Bowman and Sarah Keller, The New York Times, 6/1/17

Refrain from singing? [7]

Clues like this are what got me started on cryptic crosswords–there’s something lovely about words with such completely different double meanings. As a verb, “refrain” means to stop, but as a noun–which is how it’s trickily being used here–it refers to a repeated part of a song. CHORUS doesn’t fit, so use something more specific: TRALALA.

  • Jacob Stulberg, The New York Times, 5/31/17

Big figure in Manhattan? [4]

The play on words in this clue has to do with “figure,” which is referring to a number, not a person. A big number isn’t just large, it’s high–too damn high, and if you haven’t Jimmy McMillan’ed your way to the answer yet, we’re talking about the RENT.

  • Andrew Zhou, The New York Times, 5/28/17