I usually enjoy it when a theme is helpful in solving the puzzle but I think this week's Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo went a little overboard in that regard. The title of the puzzle is "Vowel Language" and while that phrase is replete with punny possibilities that might have been a lot of fun, it turns out that Frank has created some phrases consisting of three four-letter words which are the same except for a change in the vowel of each word. The phrases are all clued wackily of course, but it must have been a lot harder for Frank to invent the definitions, which are pretty clever themselves, than it is for us to put them in the grid. When you know that three of the four letters in each word are going to be the same it becomes a pretty easy matter to fill in the answers with just one or two crosses because each consonant can be used in three places. OK, it's easier to show the results than it is to explain them:
23a - PACKPICKPUCK (Group of wolves decide which hockey disk to use?)
33a - LOSTLASTLIST (Misplaced the most recent catalog?)
43a - SPOTSPITSPAT (Notice folks quarreling about a skewer?)
55a - BERNBARNBORN (Farm structure is built in Switzerland's capital?)
78a - MESSMOSSMASS (Put a clump of tree-trunk greenery in disarray?)
89a - CROWCRAWCREW (Group working on a jackdaw's gullet?)
98a - DECKDOCKDUCK (Knock out a pier-dwelling mallard?)
112- LEFTLOFTLIFT (Exited the elevator to the high-ceilinged SoHo flat?)
As usual, by the time I arrived at the first theme answer it was all but completely filled in by crosses so I could immediately see what was going on with the theme. In retrospect I wish I had stopped solving the grid systematically and jumped ahead to the rest of the theme clues to see if I could figure out the answers without any crosses. That would have been a good opportunity to match wits with Frank A. Longo and see if my mind is as warped as his, but alas my devotion to my solving routine of going by the numbers led me to MAINTAIN (109a - Preserve) the usual methodology. Looking back at the clues I bet I could have solved most of them. My hindsight is always 20-20.
As for the non-theme fill there's not much that I found exciting. I did pick up a possible mini-theme wherein our constructor first decides to OPINE (39d - Share a view), then to ORATE (66a - Give a big speech) wherein he delivers a SER(mon) (87a - Rev.'s talk) which I'm sure he did ATONALLY (116a - How keyless music is written). It was INVAIN (74a - To no avail) because I'm still not sorry that I TAUNTED (15d - Poked fun at) the puzzle. Alright, I'll stop now.
- I'm glad I knew VERMILLION (17d - Indiana county whose name is a red color) is a color (but I didn't know it was red) because I don't know the name of any Indiana counties.
- REKEY (7d - Type in anew), ENTER (50d - Register for) and USERACTION (70d) are all things I do as I write this post.
- NBATV (51d - Hoops cable channel) (there's such a thing?), NSYNC (58d - "Bye Bye Bye boy band) (I love alliteration - apparently Frank does, too) and NYSE ( 121a - Where Coca-Cola is "KO")
are all non-words starting with the same letter. That's Nifty.
- I'm never sure how to spell KANYE (100d - West with 21 Grammys) so today I tried KeNYE at first. I do know it's not KeNYa because that would be clued as "Obama's birthplace?" wouldn't it?
- SKINNY (95d - With 8-Down, swims without a suit) DIP (8d - See 95-Down) made me yearn for weather warm enough to permit me to pursue that activity in my pool (it's going to be a long winter, I fear).
- A good puzzle theme would be a quote from (55d - Yankee Yogi) BERRA - he said lots of funny things that I bet Frank could work in to a grid.
Speaking of baseball greats, Major League Baseball (is there an MLBTV cable channel?) has entered the post-season to determine which two teams will play in the World Series (which determines the world-champion team if you define "world" as "North America") so here are STAN (104d - Funny Laurel) and Oliver Hardy to get you in the mood: