Theme: "At the Y" — Familiar phrases have a Y (or two) added to them to make new wacky phrases which are clued "?"-style.
- 23A: Conference call? (MANY-TO-MANY CHAT).
- 36A: Skittish about almost everything? (WORLD WARY).
- 49A: Cheer from an ass? (SUPPORT BRAY).
- 81A: Successful cabbies? (BUSY DRIVERS).
- 95A: Thick stick-in-the-mud? (DENSE FOGY).
- 114A: Overt play for sympathy? (OPEN PITY MINING).
- 16D: Hamlet's cry after finding a gem? (AY THERE' S THE RUBY).
- 43D: Editor's mixed bag? (GOOD COPY BAD COPY).
I really enjoyed this theme and the puzzle in general. BUSY DRIVERS was a little jarring to me because the original phrase and the resulting phrase, at least as clued, are so similar. And it's a shame the Hamlet quote had to start with "Ay." None of the other theme answers have Ys in the original phrase. But come on ... GOOD COPY BAD COPY? That's an awesome theme answer. And I found the fill consistently good. No real clunkers, just a long list of good, solid words and phrases — WOE IS ME (21A: Melodramatic cry) and PASS GO (76D: Turn a corner, in Monopoly) the sparkliest of the bunch.
The most trouble I had was over in the Carolina region where TFR. (98A: Relocation: Abbr.) just wasn't making any sense to me. I was pretty sure ARTERIAL (86D: Main street) was right (even though the answer seemed more like an adjective than a noun) and 88D: Pine distillates had to be TARS, right? Right? TFR., here, is an abbreviation for transfer. That's pretty ugly. But, honestly, if that's the biggest problem this puzzle has, it's a good puzzle day.
- 30A: Severe spasm (THROE). Can there be just one throe? I'm not complaining, just asking.
- 33A: Joe's con man buddy in "Midnight Cowboy" (RATSO). Saw the character's whole name, Ratso Rizzo, in a puzzle recently, which was awesome.
- 35A: Corp. alias (DBA). Doing Business As.
- 42A: Makes true (ALIGNS). True in the sense of, well, properly aligned. Not in the sense of not false.
- 68A: Skelton's Kadiddlehopper (CLEM). Before my time, but I must have seen it in a puzzle before because it sounded familiar.
- 70A: Fast times? (LENTS). Tricky clue! Times when people don't eat (i.e., fast).
- 71A: Lazy (OTIOSE). This is a great word that I have never used but will start using ... today.
- 91A: Like fairy tale stepmothers (EVIL). Yeah, and what's up with that?
- 99A: Feature of Goliath, but not giants (HARD G). I'm embarrassed that I didn't see this one coming. Was this one tough for you guys too? Or have you been paying so much attention to this blog that none of this tricky stuff phases you anymore?
- 111A: Polo of "Meet the Fockers" (TERI). She was really good as Rebecca in the awesome, far-too-short-lived "Sports Night," which I was mildly obsessed with.
- 123A: Cordage fibers (ISTLES). You'll learn more about this when you get to our Advanced Crosswordese courses.
- 14D: Wall Street org. (ASE). I assume this stands for American Stock Exchange, except it doesn't look like that organization ever goes by that abbreviation. But I don't see anything else it might be (Association of Space Explorers? Australian Screen Editors? No and no.)
- 18D: "Jump the shark," e.g. (IDIOM). The kids decided the other day after dinner that they wanted to play charades. So we're all taking turns coming up with phrases and acting them out. When PuzzleHusband's turn came up he decided to act out "Jump the shark." Do you have any idea how long it takes to explain "Jump the shark" to 8- and 10-year-old kids? Dad: "See there was this show that took place in the '50s. And there was this really cool guy who always wore a leather jacket named Fonzie..." Kids: "Fonzie? That doesn't sound very cool." Dad: "That's not important. The important part is that he rode a motorcycle...."
- 38D: Skip along the water (DAP). I've only seen this word one other time and that was in a puzzle. I didn't know it then and I didn't remember it today.
- 46D: King Zog's capital (TIRANA). I do not know what this means. Okay, this is funny. I thought this must be some kinda "Star Trek" or "Lord of the Rings" reference, but it turns out there actually was a King Zog in Albania from 1928 to 1939.
- 61D: Ray's opponent (ORIOLE). Baseball!