Author: Alan Arbesfeld
Theme: Dropping "ball" from phrases to form new phrases.
- Ballpark figure => PARK FIGURE (17a: Ranger?).
- Ballpoint pens => POINT PENS (26a: Do masonry work on brick enclosures?). This is my least favorite of the bunch.
- Football pools => FOOT POOLS (51a: Wading places?).
- Pinball machine => PIN MACHINE (65a: ATM?).
- 41a: Making a blunder (and this puzzle's theme) (DROPPING THE BALL).
This isn't my favorite theme, but it's okay. On the plus side, it evolves from a nice helper phrase, "dropping the ball". On the minus side, three of the theme entries are adjective/noun phrases, while one oddball is a verb/noun phrase, and an awkward one at that.
- 60a: Hebrew toast (L'CHAIM). Great LCH letter combo, and fun to say, too.
- 3d: Springtime prank victim (APRIL FOOL). Kind of an easy clue for such a nice fill.
- 42d: Longstocking of kiddie lit (PIPPI). Gotta love interesting fill that ends in I.
- 48d: Bass sound (OOM-PAH). This one took longer than it should have, as I was thinking of an actual bass, as opposed to a bass-register brass instrument (like tuba or sousaphone). But it's a nice fill.
- 10a: "Traffic" cop (NARC). If you haven't seen the film "Traffic", it's about the illegal drug trade. Good clue.
- 19a: Crackerjack (A-ONE). Something about this clue crossing NAACP (10d: Spingarn Medal org.) struck my funny bone.
- 24a: Missile pact of 1972 (SALT I). Did they call this SALT I? It seems more logical that it would just be SALT, as they wouldn't necessarily have known there was going to be another. Like, you don't say "Jaws I" or "Rocky I", do you?
- 33a: City founded by Pizarro (LIMA). Pretty obvious with a couple of crossings. Also, Brazilian supermodel Adriana.
- 44a: Vietnam massacre site (MY LAI).
- 47a: Favor preceder? (POR). Cute.
- 57a: Gas brand (AMOCO). If it was 4-letters, it would have been ESSO.
- 64a: Sighed line (AH ME), which crosses 53d: "Holy cow!" (OH, MAN). Here is your Holy cow reference. See if you can guess what it's going to be.
- 72a: Big Brown, e.g. (HORSE). Would have loved the answer to be DOPER.
- 73a: Private dining spot? (MESS). It's a clue I've seen before, but I still like it.
- 4d: Moo goo gai pan pan (WOK). I've seen this clue before, too, but it doesn't hold up as well to repeat viewings.
- 6d: Boost (LEG UP). Gives a whole other connotation to political booster.
- 7d: Achille ___ (hijacked cruise ship) (LAURO).
- 8d: Text scanner: Abbr. (OCR). Optical character reader.
- 9d: Curtains (THE END).
- 25d: Setting of Raymond James Stadium (TAMPA). My first guess after a couple of crossings was TEMPE, which was close (literally, not geographically).
- 31d: Fleet runner: Abbr. (ADM). Admirals run (i.e., lead) a naval fleet.
- 34d: Opening bars (INTRO). It was my first thought.
- 38d: Big name in luggage (SAMSONITE).
- 50d: Like "der" in Ger. (MASC).
- 51d: "Killing Me Softly With His Song" singer (FLACK). Written about Don McLean's song, "American Pie". Here's the Fugees' version, with Lauryn Hill.
- 52d: Colour in a landscape (OCHRE).
- 54d: Modern workout program (TAE BO).
- 55d: Like some eclipses (LUNAR). It had to be SOLAR or LUNAR. Mitsubishi didn't fit.
- 56d: MVP of Super Bowl XXI (Phil SIMMS).
- 58d: "Ten ___ a Dance" (CENTS). This is an old Rodgers and Hart tune. Here's Michelle Pfeiffer singing it in "The Fabulous Baker Boys".
- 59d: Buck of "Hee Haw" (OWENS).
Suns of Bitches:
- 31a: "Ararat" director Egoyan (ATOM). I did not like this clue at all. I had A_OM, crossing a song I didn't know entitled "I _RY" - 32d: "I ___" (2000 Macy Gray hit) (TRY). Well, I'm sorry, but there are several logical alternatives here. I cry. I try. I pry, maybe. And less likely, but still well within the realm of possibility for a song, I dry, I fry, or even I wry (though that one's a stretch). There are lots of fair ways to clue ATOM in this situation. This was not one of them.
- 29d: Actor Marienthal (ELI). I guess you couldn't use Eli Manning, what with a Phil Simms clue already in the puzzle, but how about a Three Dog Night song?
Overall, this was a pretty average Wednesday for me, with several nice clues offset somewhat by a nasty crossing and a so-so theme.
Thanks for listening.
- Pete M.