(THE GRID REPRODUCED HERE CONTAINS AN ERROR - PLEASE SEE COMMENTARY!)
This week's Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo is titled 'Am I Blue' and the first thing I noticed was that it lacked a question mark even though a question seems impied - that's curious, I think. A quick scan of the clues revealed a dearth of ?s there, too so apparently no wacky cluing is involved; I wonder what Frank A. Longo is up to?
I launched into the puzzle without any understanding of what the theme might be, but that's OK because I like surprises and I was sure Frank would reward us with some zaniness or groan-inducing puns - I have come to expect that of his puzzles. My anticipation grew as I worked my way to the first ling theme answer, but when I arrived there the clue was straight-forward and the answer, which was easy enough to get from the crosses I had already filled in, was a literal response with nothing apparent to set it apart from the rest of the grid except its length. And so it went as I worked my way through three more long answers without any sort of theme revealing itself - this is not typical Longo fare, methinks.
The top half of the grid was nearly complete and I was still operating in the dark theme-wise when I came upon the clue that Frank had inserted to reveal the theme smack-dab in the center of the grid: "Eight of their names are featured in this puzzle" (74a). I had enough letters in place to see the answer was "the(something)" but no idea as to what it could be. I already had half of the answers in place but no common feature jumped out at me and the title was still no help. I continued on with the solve and with a couple more letters from crosswords the answer became all too obvious, and I groaned - it was not a good groan like a really bad pun might elicit, either. THESMURFS - I doing a crossword puzzle that has the names of eight of the friggin' Smurfs! I didn't even know the Smurfs had names for crissake! It's a good thing I at least knew they are blue or the whole concept of the puzzle might have eluded me (I'm not sure that would have been a bad thing). So there you have it - I worked my way to the bottom of the grid and in the process produced the eight names:
23a - HANDYREFERENCE (Thesaurus on one's desk, say)
37a - PAPAJOHNS (Pizza Hut alternative)
39a - VANITYMIRROR (Item on many a dressing table)
56a - GREEDYPAWS (Repacious mitts)
86a - HEFTYCHUNK (Pretty large portion)
104a-CHEFBOYARDEE (Pasta-can man)
107a-LAZYSUSAN (Revolver in a pantry)
124a-GROUCHYLADYBUG (Eric Carle kids' book, with "The")
I have to admit I'm guessing that those are the name that I've highlighted in blue; for all I know there could be Smurfs named John, Paws, Chunk, Ardee, Susan or Lady. I think I have them right though, based on this which I learned from wiki (post-solve): "There are more than one hundred Smurfs, whose names are based on adjectives that emphasize their characteristics..." Gee, with that many possible theme answers from which to choose Frank could do a whole collection of puzzles with the same theme (I'm not suggesting that would be a good idea, just that he could). Needless to say, the theme was no help whatsoever in solving the puzzle but at least the clues were plain enough to get the answers without knowing anything about Smurfs, which in my case at least is a very good thing. I especially liked "Rapacious mitts" because I often complain about "greedy" people and now I can use a new word in my tirades. "Pasta-can man" made me smile too, because it's a totally fun way to remind me of the canned pasta-like substance that my elementary school often served for "hot lunch". I seem to recall it was one of my favorite meals at the time.
Since I solved this as a non-theme puzzle I should probably say a few things about the rest of the fill.
The first thing I noticed and I like a lot is that Frank placed HUNGJURY (15d - Cause for a mistrial) right alongside ONAPPEAL (38d - How some court cases are won) - that's a neat juxtaposition, I think. My nautical side enjoyed seeing ADRIFT (67d - Not moored) and the nearby LOST (61d - All at sea) because I've been one or the other of those things most of my life - hey, if I were a Smurf either one could be my name!
OUCH - I just discovered mistake in my grid. The crossing of 70d (Pipette, e.g.) and 79a (Abstract sculpture with no moving parts) should be a B, not an n, so the answers are TUBE/STABILE. The sad thing is, I know what a pipette is from having my finger stuck by the Red Cross on a regular basis; the tendency to rush and not thoroughly check my answers is a BADHABIT (91d - Vice) that I have yet to overcome, so I often finish a puzzle with one (or more) wrong squares. I guess I haven't become the OLDPRO (8a - Seasoned veteran) as a cruciverbalist that I sometimes think I am.
Miscellaneous other stuff:
- the ZAGAT (109d - Big name in restaurant guides)/BIGEYE cross was problematic because neither term was familiar enough to jump immediately to mind.
- FINITELY (68d - So as to be countable) is a legitimate adverb but it sure seems like it would be hard to use in normal conversation.
- another possible Smurf name for me could be ANALOG ( 115a - Counterpart to digital) - I often describe myself as an analog man in a digital world (I know it's not original, but it's accurate).
- CRUELER (20a - More vicious) is correct as the comparative term but "more cruel" sounds better to me. I don't know why that is.
- FUNMONEY (3d - Extra cash to play with) is a fun term.
- Frank's Latin friend Ovid makes two appearances: CVII (81a - Ovid's 107), right next to ECCE (82a - Ovid's "Lo!") (they could be said to ABUT (90a - Be beside) one another.
- The clue immediately preceding Ovid was "Amo, amas, I love __" (ALASS - 80a) - I think Frank was trying to trick us there. Ooh, I just noticed another term Ovid would use right in the same section of the grid: CUM (83d Magna__laude) crosses ECCE. I think Frank is showing off.
- NAN (100d - Bread eaten with vindaloo) crossing NOH (113a - Yokohama drama) was kind of a crap shoot because I don't know much about Indian cuisine or Japanese theater. In fact, when I google "NAN", nothing bread-related comes back; when I add "bread" to the query it first gives me replies for "Naan bread" - it took some persistence to finally get hits for "Nan bread".
I've been called a "naysayer" but never a "YEASAYER" (87d - Always-agreeing sort).
- I noticed very few proper names (other than the Smurfs, of course) - that's a feature I can GRINAT (14d - Give a smile).
Here's a video inspired by the puzzle - I'll leave it to you to figure out why: