Author: Alan Arbesfeld
Theme: Adding ME to phrases.
- Flu season => FLUME SEASON (17a: When water parks make their money?).
- Conga lines => CON GAME LINES (23a: "It's easy, pal-just keep track of the shell with the pea" and others?).
- Sha Na Na => SHAME NANA (31a: Embarrass grandma?).
- Do or die => DOME OR DIE (40a: Motto of indoor stadium advocates?). "Do me or die" would have a whole different connotation. See how good cluing is important?
- Princess Di => PRINCESS DIME (45a: Coin featuring Sleeping Beauty?).
- Lee Majors => MELEE MAJORS (57a: Ones getting a degree in riot control?).
I love this theme. It's a great example of what you get when both the base phrases and the new phrases are full of sparkle. I mean, check out the base phrases: conga lines, flu season, Sha Na Na, Lee Majors... wonderful stuff! I was hooked at FLUME SEASON and wasn't let down throughout the puzzle. I was a little fuzzy regarding the title "Pick-Me-Ups", but I guess it just means phrases "picking up" the MEs. I was looking for more "up-ness" somewhere, but it was not to be found.
When you include six sparkling theme entries, you don't need the rest of the fill to be spectacular; you just need to keep it reasonable and entertaining. Which it is.
- 1a: Maker of Centipede (ATARI). If it's a classic video game being referenced in a crossword, it's probably ATARI.
- 15a: Partially lit (TIPSY). My guess of ESSEX for 8d: ___ Downs (English racecourse) (EPSOM) led me to try PISSY here, figuring it was a Britishism along the lines of getting pissed. Note that if this had been the NYT puzzle, I wouldn't even have considered it. I consider that a compliment to Peter Gordon and the Sun.
- 29a: Russian fighter jet (MIG). If you didn't know this right off, you need to go rent "Top Gun" again. And not just because I'm in it (well, in a manner of speaking).
- 30a: Alter (AMEND). If someone can explain the difference between AMEND and EMEND, I'd like to hear it. I'm always guessing, and I almost always guess wrong.
- 38a: Blue-footed bird (BOOBY). Heh heh... Hey Beavis, he said "booby".
- 39a: Imposture (HOAX). Lots of Xs in this puzzle.
- 42a: Perfume during a church service (CENSE). Isn't it INCENSE? Is this slang, like 'CENSE?
- 44a: Maybelline's parent company (L'OREAL).
- 52a: First-stringers (A-TEAM). I would have preferred a colorful Mr. T reference here.
- 56a: It might have a certain ring to it (TUB). Clever clue. What was the Dr. Seuss book with the bathtub ring? I think it was "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back". Let me check... yup, that's the one.
- 61a: Library implement (DATER). Is this that inkpad date stamp that libraries used to use before everything was bar coded and scanned? I never heard it called a dater.
- 65a: It gets put in a sinkhole (DRANO).
- 1d: ___ Romeo (ALFA).
- 2d: Joust (TILT). As in tilting at windmills, a la Don Quixote.
- 5d: Freezing (ICE COLD).
- 6d: "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble" author William (STEIG).
- 10d: Illustration, for example: Abbr. (SYN). Another of those very clever cryptic definitions. "Illustration" and "example" are synonyms.
- 11d: Relay race handoff (BATON). Very appropos with the Olympics just finished.
- 13d: Its state flower is the bluebonnet (TEXAS). Name a five-letter state that ends in S.
- 22d: Words on a sticky note attached to a contract (SIGN HERE). If you've ever closed on a house, this should have been a gimme for you.
- 24d: Shirley Dinsdale was the first person to win one (EMMY). Name a four-letter award that begins with E.
- 27d: Magazine contents (AMMO). I've seen this ruse too often to be fooled.
- 34d: Jim-dandy (A-ONE).
- 38d: Oscar-winning role for Jane in "Klute" (BREE). Great film also starring Donald Sutherland. I tried to spell it BRIE, like the cheese, at first.
- 41d: Like some meds (OTC). Over-the-counter.
- 42d: Charge (COMMAND). As in "I'm in charge here".
- 45d: Boy in "The Snowy Day" (PETER).
- 50d: John on a farm (DEERE). Easy, but cute clue. OUTHOUSE didn't fit.
Suns of Bitches:
I'm bad enough trying to remember first names of people I know, never mind those I don't. Luckily, they were relatively normal names, unlike yesterday's collection of INAs and PIAs.
- 63a: Baseball announcer Hudler (REX).
- 33d: First name in "The Lonesome Train" (ABE).
- 53d: Marathoner Mota (ROSA).
I thought this was a great puzzle for a Tuesday. The theme entries were plentiful and enjoyable, the fill and clues were decent, and the hard stuff wasn't all that hard. Two thumbs up.
Thanks for listening.
- Pete M.