Announcement #1: I’ll be going on vacation to Montreal and Quebec City until August 6, so the next few blog posts will probably be shorter than they usually are.

Announcement #2: I mentioned last week that today’s puzzle would be a challenge. It’s actually the first in a stretch of three or four puzzles that are going to be tougher than a medium-difficulty puzzle. I say “three or four” because that fourth one is in production now, and it might come out of the oven a tough puzzle, depending on what my test-solvers say. It might be a bit mean that I dropped this on you just as I go on vacation. Next week’s puzzle is meant to be easier than this one, but it’s still probably going to be a bit odd.

If you remember last year’s “Writer’s Block” puzzle, this one has a familiar trick. Several clues in the puzzle don’t appear to make sense, but with a cue from the title, they will once you notice that five black squares are concealing (or shading) entire words of their own. The concealed words are all synonyms of the word “throw”:

  • Chuck is hiding in the northeast corner black square, where 15A: [Rodent in a famous tongue twister] is WOOD(CHUCK) and 22D: [Betrays amusement] is (CHUCK)LES.
  • Pitch is at the 10 o’clock position, where 33A: [Variety of softball] is SLOW-(PITCH), 37A: [Some beer containers] is (PITCH)ERS, 5D: [Telemarketing spiel] is SALES (PITCH), and 43D: [Farm tool seen in “American Gothic"] is (PITCH)FORK.
  • Toss is in the center, where 66A: [Highland athletic event] is CABER (TOSS), 68A: [Strew] is (TOSS) ABOUT, 45D: [Opportunity to pick a side in the Super Bowl] is COIN (TOSS), and 73D: [“Drunk History" figures] is (TOSS)POTS.
  • Cast is at the 4 o’clock position, where 98A: [Xfinity’s parent] is COM(CAST), 99A: [Shipwreck survivor] is (CAST)AWAY, 75D: [Weather Channel info] is FORE(CAST), and 104D: [Gathering after a theatrical production] is (CAST) PARTY.
  • Sling is in the southwest corner, where 121A: [Projectile launcher] is (SLING)SHOT and 105D: [Pestering persistently] is HAS(SLING).

As an extra, I threw in a couple of 15-letter answers as a nod to the title. 49A: [Throws] is DISCOMBOBULATES and 85A: [Shade] is WINDOW TREATMENT.

Just like in the Writer’s Block puzzle, I aimed to find entries that could form legitimate words with and without the “throw” squares. What made things extra-difficult for me was that there are only a handful of decent synonyms for “throw” that yield workable phrases, and a few of them (like HURL, HEAVE, and FLING) were dead on arrival. I did think about using LOB, but even a short string like that doesn’t have many possibilities aside from (LOB)STER (the suffix -STER isn’t my favorite puzzle entry), or (LOB)ATE and (LOB)LOLLY (which are just hard words to begin with).

I hope you liked it but if you didn’t, you can just do what the title says and throw shade at it.

Other answers and clues:

  • 24A: [Rapper who sang “If I’m Gonna Eat Somebody (It Might as Well Be You)" in “FernGully: The Last Rainforest"] is TONE LOC. He usually gets a clue about “Funky Cold Medina” and “Wild Things,” but I wanted something different. And that one felt different.
  • 60A: [“Parks and Recreation" boss Swanson] is RON and 61A: [“Parks and Recreation" nurse Perkins] is ANN. I still haven’t seen that much of the show. I should probably correct that.
  • 70A: [Team whose home stadium is near a “Rose" garden] is REDS. It’s dedicated to Pete Rose.
  • 70D: [Spektor who wrote the theme song to “Orange Is the New Black"] is REGINA Spektor. My wife and I just finished watching the latest season of OITNB, and I thought it was both good and bad in the ways that I have become accustomed to when it comes to Jenji Kohan shows — some completely unrealistic plots redeemed with some outstanding performances. To be fair, I’d say it gets better as the season goes on.
  • 80D: [Airline fare?] is SNACKS. My favorite clue today.
  • 86D: [Adams, to Jefferson, in 1796] is OPPONENT. There once was a time in American history when the losing presidential candidate became the vice president. Just a hunch that we won’t be returning to that any time soon.

One tough puzzle down, a few more to go. We can do this.