Today's Premier Crossword offering from Frank A. Longo is titled "CD Changer" and the THEME (36d - Main topic) is pretty straightforward. I initially thought the trick might involve switching the letters C and D in some fashion, but it turns out to be a simple substitution process wherein wacky answers, clued ?-style, are produced by replacing one letter C in a common phrase with a D. I should point out that some of the resulting answers have other "Cs" that are not replaced so the "CD Changer" is somewhat inconsistent. Here's what I'm talking about:
23a - DRAWLUNDERAROCK (Talks Texas-style while trapped by some rubble?)
31a - ARTSANDDRAFTS (Things enjoyed at a beer-selling gallery?)
44a - DROWNVICTORIA (What major flooding may do in an Australian state?)
59a - GROUNDDREW (Order Barrymore to stay in?)
67a - FIDDLERDRAB (Dull color worn by violinists?)
80a - TEADADDIES (Papas who love Pekoe?)
97a - DREAMYITALIAN (Gorgeous resident of Rome?)
105a- DOCKERSPANIEL (Dog trained to load ships?)
120a- KIDINADANDYSTORE (Boy shopping for foppish clothes?)
The clues were pretty literal despite the "?" so I was able to get most of the long answers with only a cross or two and those appeared easily enough as I worked through the grid. Only DREAMYITALIAN, my favorite answer, provided much resistance - when she finally appeared right under MANEATER (93a - Shark to watch out for) I knew I was in love! My Labrador Retrievers would like me to point out that for the second week in a row Frank has included a Cocker Spaniel in the grid with nary a mention of them, and they're getting pretty sick of it. I don't have much else to say about the theme answers except maybe KIDINADANDYSTORE seemed just a little put-offish to me, but I don't think it's FOUL (125a - Loathsome).
The non-theme fill wasn't too much of a struggle although there were a few entries where I need all of the crosses to produce the answer:
54d - Toni Morrison bestseller (SULA) Never read it, never even heard of it.
76a - John Hersey's A Bell for ___" (ADANO) I've read some of Hersey's works but not this one.
86d - ___nitrite (angina treatment) (AMYL) I think I'm glad I have never had to know this.
92d - Mani-___ (PEDI) I'm going to have to google to find out what that's all about. OK, it appears I would have known that if I were a patron of a SPA (89a - Elite retreat).
123d and 129a - ___es Salaam/"The Divine Sarah" of stage and screen (DAR/BERNHARDT) This cross almost did me in and it didn't help that for a long time I wanted 98d ("The Lost Weekend" co-star Ray) to be MILLANo - I have no idea why, maybe I was thinking of someone else. In any event, that confluence of two names from pop culture and a Tanzanian city had me ATSEA (16d - Totally lost) for a while.
I liked the oddly constructed past-tense answers with REDEALT (8d - Gave out new hands) at the top of the grid and KNELT (106d - Genuflected) at the bottom. Frank worked in a pair of letters from the Greek alphabet with ETA (Sorority letter) at 19d and PI(S) (Sorority letters) at 112a, and he included the Greek god EROS (Valentine's Day god) at 116d. For what I think is the third consecutive week, Frank makes us write the Roman numeral I in the grid, this time two of them in ACTII (90a - Second part of a play). I wonder if he does this consciously or if he just needs an I a lot, with no other way to clue it?
As ISSO often the case (30a) I've kept writing long after I have run out of interesting things to say, so I'll leave you with this, because it simultaneously demonstrates why the Ray Milland clue should have been a gimme and illustrates what a typical weekend around my house looks like. I'll be back next week with more valuable insight into the puzzle - I can't wait, can you?