This week the Premier Crossword by Frank Longo is titled "Big Mix-Ups". I always like to figure out the theme or gimmick as I do the puzzle and today, with the first two long answers in place, I noticed that they both contained the letters that could be rearranged to spell HUGE, so of course I thought I had it: "huge" means "big" and the letters are "mixed-up". As themes go that's a pretty lame one so I was gratified to discover upon filling in the next theme answer that "huge" was not present, nor could I spot any other mixed-up letters to spell any other synonym of "big". After a little staring at the first two long answers I realized that not only did they share the letters for "huge" but they shared ALL the same letters - they're anagrams of one another! OK, that's a much better theme - the "big mix-ups" are the theme answers themselves with the letters rearranged to another theme answer. I love it!
Further solving bore out my new theory as each new pair of anagrams materialized in the grid:
23a - THOUGHT OTHERWISE (Had a different opinion)
31a - WITHER THOU GOEST (1954 hit song with a biblical title)
46a - RETIREMENT PARTIES (Career-completion celebrations)
59a - PRIME INTEREST RATE (Bank offering for creditworthy customers)
70a - PROFESSIONAL GRADE (Like some high-quality models)
82a - SEA FLOOR SPREADING (Formation of new areas of oceanic crust)
101a -WRESTLING COACHES (Trainers looking or pins)
114a-CIRCLES THE WAGONS (Takes a defensive position)
The clues for all of the theme answers are all very literal which made it easy enough to figure them out, at first I resisted writing in the obvious answer because I suspected a trap. Nope, they're just straight-forward, easy clues - I don't know if I'm disappointed or grateful but they did make the solving process seem lacking in challenge. I had trouble with only one because I had a wrong letter in place - at 104d I had entered the very obvious answer COopS in response to the clue "Fowl sheds". I needed the crosswords to correct the mistake and produce COTES, which I had to look up post-solve because it's a new word to me. So I did fall into that little trap, which I suspect was deliberate (the clue is dead-on accurate for both words).
Speaking of learning new things, I was prepared to complain about "sea floor spreading" as a bogus made-up phrase but, of course, it's a real thing: (from wiki) Seafloor spreading is a process that occurs at mid-ocean ridges, where new oceanic crust is formed through volcanic activity and then gradually moves away from the ridge.
I was also prepared to get all indignant about a non-theme clue/answer at 110a, where I mis-read the clue (so I guess that's my fault) as "Table scrap" which everybody knows is OrT but the crosswords insisted on OAT instead - it wasn't until I started formulating my complaint to register here when I discovered the clue is Stable scrap. So never mind.
I'm not sure what it says about me, but I needed all of the crosswords to produce Sitcom actress INGA Swenson (5d) but IMOGENE Coca of comedy (16d) went in instantly. Likewise "RAMBLIN' Rose" (Nat King Cole hit) (56d) was in my memory bank but the 1979 Michael Caine film ASHANTI was a complete unknown. Strangely, I had almost no trouble with the pop-culture congestion in the bottom-right corner where "My Cherie AMOUR" (105D), Casey of countdowns KASEM (107d) and Irene CARA of "Fame" (111d) went in effortlessly, probably because they're all from the musical age from my formative years. Fashion designer Oscar de la RENTA (106d), not so much.
- "Blog feed initials" producing RSS (60d) had me baffled until I consulted google: (from wiki, of course) "RSS (Rich Site Summary); originally RDF Site Summary; often dubbed Really Simple Syndication, uses a family of standard web feed formats to publish frequently updated information: blog entries, news headlines, audio, video. An RSS document (called "feed", "web feed", or "channel") includes full or summarized text, and metadata, like publishing date and author's name." Who knew?
- Apparently you can add as many "A"s as you need to produce a "Sigh of satisfaction" (37a) -AAAH.
- I'm not sure how NARCO is "Stupor: Prefix" (103d) - a person with narcolepsy is in a stupor, maybe?
-I just noticed Italian opera singer EZIO Pinza (35d), EDIE Falco of "Oz" (81d) and Film director ELIA Kazan - what's up with that? Also, Greek vowels ETAS (87d) (which could also have been "JFK estimates", I guess), Canadian station name ESSO (51a), Old West's Wyatt EARP (33d), Bards' dusks EENS (98a), English peer EARL (83d) and Bidding site EBAY (78a). That's a lot of four letter E words - did I miss any? EMAIL (35a - Cyberspace letters) me if I did.