MNOP

New York Times, July 5

This is like the “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” reference — where a panda walks into a bar, orders some food, fires at the patrons and walks out. The bear learned his behavior from a mispunctuated wildlife guide that says a panda “eats, shoots and leaves.”

Similarly, “MNOP” isn’t just a sequence of letters in the alphabet — it’s the mispunctuated key to this puzzle that should read M, no, P. So the theme answers substitute the “M” in common phrases with a “P” to created clever new ones.

Thus a “Strutting bird on an ice floe?” (91 Across) is a STUD PUFFIN; “Tripping over a threshold, perhaps?” (33 Across) is PORTAL DANGER; and “Residents at a Manhattan A.S.P.C.A.?” (94 Across) are NEW YORK PETS, a play on the hapless baseball team that just got swept by the Phillies this weekend. Oops, did I just say that out loud?

Also fun: FULL PETAL JACKET (69 Across, “Floral Technicolor dreamcoat?”), THE POD SQUAD (45 Across, “Pea farmers?”) and PASS CONFUSION (122 Across, “Explanation for an interception?”).

And a huge hallelujah for the restoration of the acrostic to the NYT Sunday Magazine!

Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy

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