Frank A. Longo must be especially proud of this week's Premier Crossword because he announces it with the title "TA-DA!", as in "Look what I did!" A glance at the clues revealed that "?-style" clues are in play so I set my pun detector on "high alert" and launched into the puzzle to see what Frank had in store for us.
It didn't take long for the first theme answer to reveal itself and it took even less time for the significance of the title to become apparent: common phrases are re-imagined with new meanings by removing a "T" as in "TA" and replacing it with a "D" as in "DA" - "TA to DA", get it? So when the grid is complete we have these long answers to contemplate:
23a - ON THE JOB DRAINING (Pulling a plug while at work?)
34a - DRENCH WARFARE (Water balloon battles?)
44a - DAMPER RESISTANT (Unaffected by killjoys?)
60a - OLD WIVES' DALE (Ancient valley where female spouses lived?)
71a - DON'T SHED A DEAR (Decide against divorce?)
81a - DENNIS COURTS (Basketballer Rodman is a suitor?)
94a - DRY BEFORE YOU BUY (Finish doing the dishes prior to going shopping?)
106a-ELEPHANT DRUNK (Circus beast after tippling?)
121a-DIME AND DIME AGAIN (Twenty cents in change?)
This seems like pretty standard fare from Frank A. Longo so I don't know if it merits a "TA-DA!" on it's inventiveness - I was more like, "Oh, okay", but maybe that's just me. On the other hand I'm certain I couldn't come up with even one phrase that would work with the letter-substitution, let alone nine of them, and I'm damn sure I couldn't put them in a grid and construct a workable puzzle around them so if the constructor thinks it's "TA-DA!"-worthy, who am I to argue? I think I'm just UGLI (119d - Aptly named citrus fruit) because I don't like seeing elephants described as "circus beasts", but that's another discussion altogether so let's move on.
My local newspaper added an extra element of challenge to the puzzle by omitting some clues, partially or completely. So for 86a I had only "...Your Mother"" to work with but I presume there was a "How__..."at the beginning so IMET would complete the TV title. There was no clues at all for 49a so PEELS had to go in on the crosswords. Likewise, 30d was partially clued as "forest's climate: Abbr." which wasn't much help in producing TROP, and the long entry at 77d, ENTRAPMENT was unclued, which was worrisome for a while. Still, all's well that ends well so no harm, no foul.
Otherwise my solving experience was remarkably smooth and error-free. My only write-overs were self-inflicted problems caused by carelessly writing answers in the wrong space (which I'm prone to do at least once in every puzzle). I don't believe I've ever encountered the word REGALITY (55d - Kingly state) and I did not know that "Heavy bases under statues" are PLINTHS (89a) but there seemed to be only one likely letter at the crossing so no problem.
Odd and ends:
- "Laughing sound" can be HAHA (1a) or HAR (72d), among others I am sure.
- ANJOU (5s - Pear type) crossing NISI (20a - Not yet finalized, in law) could have been problematic had I not seen both words recently in other puzzles. Non-lawyer solvers who don't know their fruits could have trouble there.
- SOSUEME (57d) looks really weird in the grid, but it's a great answer for "I goofed...big whoop!"
- ELS (35d) are in fact "Letters after kays" and RSTU (67d) are "Q followers" but it seems wrong for them to both appear in the same grid. Maybe I'd feel better if ELS had a non-alphabet clue, like "Chicago trains" or something.
- RWR (25d) as an answer to "He defeated Mondale to become Pres." - since Mondale's last name was used in the clue I was expecting the answer to be a surname, too, but I guess the "Pres." was supposed to suggest an abbreviation or initials?
- I did not know that TAV (48d) was the final Hebrew letter; seems like a premature end to the alphabet.
- INSUM (80d - As a recap), I finished, I enjoyed, I learned some things - TA-DA!
Speaking of elephants: