Sunday, October 26, 2014

Aah or Ahh? I never know.

"Also Included" is the title of this week's Premier Crossword by Frank Longo and it didn't take long to see that the long theme answers are all common phrases with "AND" inserted to create newly imagined phrases clued, of course, with a "?" to indicate the wackiness of the results. So strictly speaking, "also" isn't literally included as the title suggests but a reasonable synonym takes its place, so close enough - creative license and all that. With the grid all filled in we find these altered expressions populating the long answers:

23a - STRANDING QUARTETS (Leaving chamber groups high and dry?)
33a - FAUX PANDAS (Black-and-white stuffed animals?)
49a - LANDED BY EXAMPLE (Showed the ideal way to touch down?)
67a - THIS WON'T HURT A BANDIT ("No roving robbers will be harmed by what I'm doing"?)
84a - RUNNING MANDATES (Official orders telling folks to jog?)
99a - BANDED HEAD (Noggin with a sweat absorber around it?)
115a-BETTER THAN EVANDER (Superior to boxer Holyfield?)

Once I picked up the conceit I found the theme to be very helpful in filling in the grid because the core phrases were mostly easy to figure out and the words formed by inserting "and" were apparent from the cluing so it turned into a fairly easy exercise to fill them in. I suppose Evander Holyfield might cause some grief for some solvers but "better than ever" is is a common expression and there are only so many places "and" can reasonably be added, or if all else fails the crosswords will point the way. My clear favorite long answer is "this won't hurt a bandit", both for the cleverness of the clue and the fact that the core phrase is more often than not an outright lie - when someone says it in all likelihood whatever they're doing is going to hurt. Seven theme answers is about the minimum for Frank's grids, I think, but obviously sometimes you need to go for quality over quantity.

Regular readers (Hi, Mom!) know that I frequently grouse about the multitude of pop-culture answers that are NEEDFUL (71d - Required) to complete the puzzle, so today I'd like to remark on the dearth of such references in the grid - CELEBS (48d 0- A-list folks) are not totally absent (Hi, R&B singer India.ARIE) but they are few and far between so kudos to the constructor on that count.

I made a couple of mis-steps which are apparent from a glance at my completed grid. I could have avoided the SErGE/SEDGE (30a - Grasslike swamp plant) calamity if I hadn't resisted defining SCROD as "Young cod" (3d) which I think is technically wrong, or at least incomplete. We in New England use the term to apply to any whitefish that's been split and boned for consumption, and although "young cod" could certainly be included in the definition it is not limited to that. My complaint would be resolved with "e.g." in the clue, but I think it's at least misleading as written. For what it's worth the term for "young cod" seems to be "codling". On the other hand TERESe/TERESA (19d - Nun of Avila) and newEST/LATEST (96d - Most recent) are all on me - I really need to wait for the crosswords to guide me before I put my ignorance on display.

There's not much else to say about the puzzle, but I won't let that stop me:

- The constructor's favorite novelist makes her weekly appearance with "Grafton's Q IS for Quarry" (24d)

- HORN-MAD (70d) means exactly what the clue says it means but it's not a phrase that's used often, I think (nothing wrong with that, though).

- Strictly speaking, T-MEN (69d) are specifically Treasury agents; Federal agents in general are more often called G-MEN. We retired Revenuers are picky about these things.

- I spelled ANORAK (18d - Parka) correctly, proving that I can learn from my earlier mistakes.

- FILMIER? (33d - More gauzy)

- NANU - NANU (68d - Half of a "Mork & Mindy" farewell) 'til next week.

Here's a timely update to the Kinks hit LOLA (52d) to send you on your way.

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