The offering this week from Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo is titled "Changing into a Man", and while that may suggest that a transgender theme is afoot that turns out not to be the case. What we have instead is a simple letter-substitution puzzle wherein a single letter is changed in a phrase to produce a wacky new phrase, clued "?-style" of course, with a "man" imagined to be part of the phrase. Thus we get these theme answers:
23a - DUDE OF EDINBURGH (Man living in Scotland's capital?)
33a - STRAPLESS BRO (Man with no fastening band?)
50a - GOES FOR BLOKE (Attacks a man?)
69a - FELLOW CLOSE BEHIND (Man at one's heels?)
89a - GENT SPLICING (Man doing some film editing?)
103a-TORTILLA CHAP (Man who owns a Mexican restaurant?)
118a-ANNIE GET YOUR GUY ("Ms. Oakley, go after that man"?)
When I had completed the top section of the grid I was able to look back and see the first two themers so I knew early on what I was looking for: slang words that are synonyms for "man". With that little bit of intelligence at hand the rest of the theme answers were pretty easy to pick up. Well, except for GENTSPLICING - I knew the "gent" part was right but I had no idea what the base phrase might be. Even after the crosswords produced the "splicing" part I wasn't sure how to parse it - it was only after I had completed the puzzle that I learned about "gene splicing": (from thefreedictionary.com)
n. The process in which fragments of DNA from one or more different organisms are combined to form recombinant DNA.
Maybe you already knew that - I did not so I was glad to learn it from the puzzle.
So there's the theme. As to the non-theme fill, nothing jumps out screaming for comment. Here are some of the things which I did not know prior to completing the puzzle:
- RED SEAL is a RCA classical music label (it's now part of Sony Masterworks).
- Those "over-size load" escort vehicles with the flags and flashing orange lights are called PILOT CARS.
-RATSBANE is apparently what they used to control rodents before d-CON arrived on the scene.
-OMAHA is a Missouri River town - that clue threw me for a while because I was reading it as "a river town in Missouri", which Omaha is not. Capitalization is important.
-LUNGE is a leg exercise; there are videos on youtube demonstrating how to do it correctly.
-The word HAIKU has apparently wormed its way into my brain because I put it in with no crosswords. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
-ALF Landon ran for President in 1936 which was before my time, but his name was familiar anyway. Losing candidates aren't usually that memorable.
-Hmm, now that I think about it, GENT SPLICING might very well be a necessary surgical procedure for "changing into a man". Maybe my theory about a transgender theme was not as wild as I thought.