[Note: This is the syndicated L.A. Times puzzle. It does not appear in the actual newspaper, but is available for free at cruciverb.com.]
Theme: "Put the Finger On" — Theme answers are familiar two-word phrases with the letters "ID" added to the end of one of the words resulting in wacky phrases clued "?"-style.
- 23A: Ella while scatting? (RAPID SINGER).
- 29A: Bow-wielding Southern god? (DIXIE CUPID).
- 36A: Cholesterol check? (LIPID SERVICE).
- 58A: Possible reply to a dentist's "Where does it hurt?" (ON THE CUSPID).
- 79A: Twisty hair style for active people? (SPORTS BRAID).
- 99A: Japanese sake, e.g.? (ASIATIC FLUID).
- 104A: Candy, cookies and soda? (KID RATIONS).
- 117A: What Depp did, over and over, to acquire the auction item he so badly wanted? (JOHNNY REBID).
I had a few trouble spots with this puzzle. The theme was fine. I didn't understand it with RAPID SINGER (thought it had something to do with the letter string "INGER"), but caught on at DIXIE CUPID. SPORTS BRAID is by far my favorite theme answer. JOHNNY REBID? Not so much. I mean, it's cute, but not only does the pronunciation change from original phrase to wacky phrase, but the clue is way past awkward. I was going to say "If the clue has to be that complicated maybe you should rethink the answer," but I'm not sure the clue even needed to be that complicated.
I've never heard of 28A: Singer TERESA Brewer. I thought she might be one of these new whippersnappers that I see in People magazine when I'm at the dentist's office and don't recognize at all. But it turns out she was popular in the 1950s. I'm gonna guess she was a gimme for some of you. I also don't remember ever hearing about 48A: 17th-18th century British poet Nicholas ROWE. Yes, I majored in English. No, I haven't read every single poet ever. The only other person that was kind of tricky was 44A: Renée of silent films (ADORÉE). I think I've seen her in a puzzle before though. There's no way that was her real name.
But my biggest problems were in the Kansas region. First, I had Oyez for OYER (85A: Open hearing, in law). And the 67D: Japanese city known for its beer (OTARU) was unknown to me, so the Z seemed reasonable enough. I also didn't know the Brit-speak TURNUPS (92A: Pants cuffs, to Brits) — kept thinking it was some sort of take on stirrups — so GDANSK wasn't coming (74D: Polish city where Solidarity was founded). I'll be honest with you. There just wasn't anything interesting enough in that section that I wanted to keep hacking away at it, so I finally gave up and started this write-up instead.
Other stuff that gave me pause:
- 47A: Magnetic Field? (SALLY). I can't think of anything particularly "magnetic" about Sally Field. I mean, she's a great actor and everything. But I think "magnetic" would more aptly describe someone super super popular. Or maybe a super-model or something. I don't know.
- 109A: Lowlife, slangily (CREEPO). I don't believe I've ever heard anyone use this particular "slang." If they did, I would scoff.
- 5D: Ocean phenomenon associated with wildlife mortality (RED TIDE). I'm sure this is totally legitimate, it's just that (again) I've never heard of it.
- 38D: Like steamy films (R RATED). Raise your hand if you entered X rated. And with the not-quite-on-the-tip-of-my-tongue 39D: Hindu scripture (VEDA), the theme answer crossing these two entries was slow to reveal itself.
- 60D: Wombs (UTERI). I believe that body parts are totally legitimate crossword answers. That said, I do not particularly like seeing UTERI in the puzzle. Come to think of it, I've never been crazy about the word womb either.
- 87D: Stop dramatically, as smoking (QUIT COLD). Nobody says this. You can "quit" and you can "go cold turkey" but you can't QUIT COLD.
- 62A: Mason's job? (CASE). Took me a long time. I kept thinking Jackie Mason, not Perry Mason.
- 66A: Condition that might bring you to tears? (BOREDOM). That's a cute clue.
- 82A: Cork people (IRISH). Not referring to their (our) penchant for drinking, just the name of a county in Ireland.
- 13D: South Pacific vacation mecca (TAHITI). I laughed at this one. Do people still go to Tahiti? It seems so ... 70s.
- 76A: Bad-mouth (DIS). I loved this slang word the moment I heard it. Yes, it was a long, long time ago, but it still does it for me. Paid it up with CUSS (30D: Hurl epithets) and we've got something going here.
- 37D: Rare altar reply, fortunately (I DON'T). Now that's funny.
- 41D: Take the honey and run (ELOPE). I think I've seen this clue before, but it's still cute.
- 66D: Informal eatery (BAR AND GRILL). The cruciverb.com data base only has this entry listed twice — once in 2000 and once in 2001. I say it's about time to resurrect it!
Everything Else — 1A: Denial on the base (NO, SIR); 6A: Smelling __ (SALTS); 11A: Hummus holder (PITA); 15A: "Oops" ("UH-OH"); 19A: Get away from (ELUDE); 20A: "__ Ben Jonson": literary epitaph (O RARE); 21A: Epps of "House" (OMAR); 22A: Nautilus captain (NEMO); 25A: 1939 Garland co-star (LAHR); 26A: All there (SANE); 27A: Salon supply (DYE); 31A: River of Cologne (RHINE); 33A: __ chi (TAI); 35A: Bull: Pref. (TAUR-); 40A: Cockpit datum (AIRSPEED); 45A: Uses as support (RESTS ON); 49A: Anesthetize (DEADEN); 51A: "The __ the limit!" (SKY'S); 54A: Parlor piece (SOFA); 55A: Prayers are often said on them (KNEES); 57A: __ standstill (AT A); 61A: Orch. section (STR.); 64A: __ bit: slightly (A WEE); 65A: Lustrous fabrics (SATEENS); 68A: Lagged behind (TRAILED); 70A: Hard and soft mouth parts (PALATES); 73A: Duds (TOGS); 75A: Sign of a past injury (SCAR); 81A: Free TV spot (PSA); 84A: Menlo Park middle name (ALVA); 86A: Marcos's successor (AQUINO); 89A: Should that be true (IF SO); 90A: Oldest Little Leaguers (TEENS); 94A: Morning need for many (COFFEE); 96A: Disheartened (SADDENED); 101A: Pleased (GLAD); 102A: Amtrak purch. (TKT); 103A: Deceptive ploys (RUSES); 112A: President between Harry and Jack (IKE); 115A: "Me neither!" ("NOR I!"); 116A: "Just doing my best" ("I TRY"); 119A: Like Nash's lama, in verse (ONE L); 120A: Cast a ballot (VOTE); 121A: Professeur's pupil (ÉLÈVE); 122A: Running score (TALLY); 123A: Blubber (BAWL); 124A: Once, long ago (ERST); 125A: Decisive times (D-DAYS); 126A: British submachine guns (STENS); 1D: Dweeb (NERD); 2D: Skin care brand (OLAY); 3D: The United States, e.g. (SUPER POWER); 4D: First name in dictators (IDI); 6D: Evening party (SOIREE); 7D: ''Rule, Britannia'' composer (ARNE); 8D: Doesn't keep up (LAGS); 9D: Dissertation (TREATISE); 10D: Rev.'s talk (SER.); 11D: __ sci (POLI); 12D: Big-screen format (IMAX); 14D: Overdue thing (ARREAR); 15D: Never before topped (UNSURPASSED); 16D: Pile (HEAP); 17D: Present opening? (OMNI-); 18D: Did garden work (HOED); 24D: Had a feeling about (SENSED); 29D: Conks out (DIES); 32D: New staff member (HIREE); 34D: Sponsor's urging (ACT NOW); 36D: Small songbirds (LARKS); 40D: Egyptian symbol of life (ANKH); 42D: Impish (ELFIN); 43D: Groups of two (DYADS); 46D: Blender brand (OSTER); 50D: Slips past (EASES BY); 52D: Sammy Davis Jr. autobiography (YES I CAN); 53D: Italy's La __ (SCALA); 56D: "Ivanhoe" author (SCOTT); 59D: New Jersey team (NETS); 63D: Schoolyard retort (ARE SO); 64D: Paris possessive (À MOI); 69D: Hockey stat (ASSIST); 70D: H.S. juniors' exams (PSATS); 71D: Words after cop (A PLEA); 72D: Cherished (LOVED); 76D: Capable of being scattered (DIFFUSIBLE); 77D: Japanese immigrant (ISSEI); 78D: Did a smith's work (SHOED); 80D: On Soc. Sec., perhaps (RETD.); 81D: Insect stage (PUPA); 83D: Remington product (RIFLE); 88D: Live in (OCCUPY); 91D: Ward of "Sisters" (SELA); 93D: Tellers? (RATS); 95D: In some respects (OF SORTS); 97D: Like English, to most Americans (NATIVE); 98D: Publishing VIP (EDITOR); 100D: Cara and Castle (IRENES); 104D: Door opener (KNOB); 105D: New York college whose team is the Gaels (IONA); 106D: Sketched (DREW); 107D: Table scraps (ORTS); 108D: Russian refusal (NYET); 110D: Ostrich relative (RHEA); 111D: Covetous feeling (ENVY); 113D: Potter's oven (KILN); 114D: Slow Churned ice-cream brand (EDY'S); 117D: "The Beverly Hillbillies" dad (JED); 118D: Wolf down (EAT).