The title of this week's Premier Crossword by Frank A. Longo is "L-IMINATION" so it's pretty apparent that the gimmick is going to involve dropping the letter L from words or phrases to create new ones that fit the ?-style clues, and hilarity ensues:
23a -WENT WITH THE FOE (Escorted one's rival?)
35a - BUDDY SUNDAY (Weekend time spent with pals?)
44a - PASTOR CAST (Actors in a film featuring church ministers?)
60a - HANG ON SOUPY (Cry to comic Sales when he's losing his grip?)
72a - I HAVEN'T A COO (Laryngitic pigeon's comment?)
82a - GAS HALF FULL (Situation when a fuel gauge is at 50%?)
95a - MIND BOEING (Watch over a 787?)
107a-GO IN THE DARK (Walk with no lights on?)
122a-RHYTHM AND BOOZE (Things that a drum-playing lush has?)
So it's not really just a matter of dropping the letter, what we have to do is replace whole words in a phrase with homophones of the word, but without the L. Confused? Me too - here's what I mean:
Flow > FOE
Bloody > BUDDY
Plaster > PASTOR
Sloopy > SOUPY
Clue > COO
Glass > GAS
Blowing > BOEING
Glow > GO
Blues > BOOZE
All of the base phrases were at least familiar enough that I was able to fill in most of the theme answers just from the clue and a few crosswords and it was mostly fun, although I was a little taken aback at seeing a reference to "Bloody Sunday" in the grid. The term was familiar but I didn't realize just how many events in history have been tagged with that label, and none of them were pretty - not proper fare for a puzzle, I think.
My favorite theme answer, and the one that took me the longest to suss out due to some wrong answers around it, was RHYTHM AND BOOZE. Most of my difficulty there stemmed from wanting to spell rhythm with an extra y somewhere (rhythym?) but obviously it wouldn't fit. Strangely it was proper names, usually my bane, that got me out of that jam. OMAR Epps (117d) shows up often enough that I have committed the name to memory, and I was able to count backwards from Obama, the 44th U.S. Pres. to arrive at GHWB, the 41st (116d). Luckily I didn't have to keep counting back to the 34th because DDE (124d) went in on crosses.
I made a couple of gaffes along the way, with STAR chart before ATLAS (57d) and it seemed perfectly reasonable to me that "Big Apple cab words" (96d) could be New York but I guess NYC TAXI fits, too (although the clue in no way signals the abbreviation - what's up with that?). As usual there were some names that needed every single crossword, including MELBA (5a - Dame Nellie of Opera) and since I wasn't 100% sure of ENTERIC (6d - __-coated tablet) or LAHAINA (7d - Tourist town on Maui) I still wasn't certain that I had it right.
I often learn new words or new meanings for old words by doing puzzles, and today I discovered that "One making an attempt" is an ESSAYER (104a) and "Got old due to excess" is CLOYED (88a), a word which I thought I knew but apparently did not. And then there's YREKA (64d - California city on I-5) but I have nothing to say about that. And PHONILY (52d) - really? It looks, well - phony, but it's in the dictionary so I guess fair enough - it's not a word that I'm ever going to use, though.
So overall a fun theme with one entry that should have been tossed due to general unpleasantness (in my opinion, anyway), but let's not dwell on that. In fact let's take Clint Eastwood's advice and L-IMINATE the negative altogether: