Theme: "Running on Empty" — Theme answers are familiar two-word phrases with the first letters M.T.
[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.]
- 23A: Crisp named for an opera singer (MELBA TOAST).
- 25A: Illusion (MAGIC TRICK).
- 36A: Popular date destination (MOVIE THEATER).
- 51A: 1936 Chaplin classic (MODERN TIMES).
- 72A: Frankie Laine chart-topper (MULE TRAIN).
- 89A: Painter's aid (MASKING TAPE).
- 105A: 1979 Nobel Peace Prize recipient (MOTHER TERESA).
- 120A: Singer's voice, e.g. (MEAL TICKET).
- 123A: Money-making knack (MIDAS TOUCH).
This was a very strange solve for me. Nothing super tricky in the puzzle, but the theme had me confused for way longer than it should have. Why? Because I read that first theme clue as "Crisp name" instead of "Crisp named" and thought MELBA TOAST was supposed to be funny but I couldn't figure out the joke. Then the rest of the theme entries had straight clues and I just really didn't figure it out for a long time. On top of that, I guess I just want to say that it's hard to get excited about a puzzle that has MASKING TAPE as a theme answer. MOVIE THEATER isn't much better. Well sure there's MAGIC TRICK, but zzzzzzzzzz .... Sorry. Must have dozed off there for a minute. I think you get my point.
- 6A: Annapolis inst. (USNA). United States Naval Academy.
- 16A: Apr. advisor (CPA). This really adds to the puzzle's excitement factor, doesn't it? (No offense, Crosscan.)
- 22A: Leia's love (HAN). Not Hans. HAN.
- 61A: State that's home to Nike H.Q. (ORE.). This was a gimme for me because I was following the demise of the University of Oregon's wrestling team a couple years ago after a questionable hiring decision brought Phil Knight's close friend, Pat Kilkenny, on board as the school's Athletic Director. Watch him answer questions in this video and I'm pretty sure you'll come away with the distinct feeling that he is a slimy you-know-what.
- 70A: New Orleans player (SAINT). I'm a Vikings fan as a result of geography, but I was nonetheless happy to see the Saints win. I heard the Saints are "America's team." So there ya go.
- 100A: Hiring term initiated under LBJ (EEO). I spent way too much time trying to find the "Seinfeld" clip where Kramer tells a couple of new parents that their baby looks like Lyndon Johnson. Couldn't find it.
- 6D: Area 51 sighting, briefly (UFO). Have you been to Roswell? The museum there is pretty cool.
- 10D: Strategic math game (NIM). Know this one only from crosswords.
- 53D: Ringo and George each wore one (MOUSTACHE). I thought for a minute this was supposed to be a theme answer.
- 63D: Teeny bit (SMIDGEN). Best word in the whole grid.
- 99D: Armchair partner (OTTOMAN). The first time I ever used the word ottoman when talking to my kids, they looked at me like I was crazy. I guess they think it sounds a little, I don't know ... high-falutin'. So now whenever we use the word, we put air quotes around it.
- 119D: __-Pei: strong dog (SHAR).
Here are some other CW101 words from today's puzzle. If you had trouble with any of these, you might want to go back and take a look at our previous write-ups.
- 129A: Notre Dame's Parseghian (ARA).
- 13D: Hibernia (ERIN).
- 15D: Its last flight was Nov. 26, 2003 (SST).
- 46D: Drink stand buy (ADE).
- 54D: Lake-effect snow city (ERIE).
- 74D: Mars counterpart (ARES).
- 92D: Pear or apple (POME).
- 93D: Broad collars (ETONS).