New York Times, Jan. 31
The title kind of gave away the theme for me here, but the answers were so clever that I didn’t care.
As “Keep an eye on it!” implies, theme answers took common phrases and put an “I” on them. So the “Sorcerer behind Amin’s rise to power?” is THE WIZARD OF IDI (23 Across); “Dodging midtown traffic?” is TAXI EVASION (33 Across); a “1964 Cassius Clay announcement?” is YOU CAN CALL ME ALI (41 Across); an “Average karate instructor?” is a COMMON SENSEI (57 Across); and “‘Yummy! Here comes your tuna sashimi!’?” is another way of saying OPEN WIDE AND SAY AHI (66 Across), which conveniently crosses with SUSHI at 47 Down (“Offering at some bars”).
Others: A “Lightsaber-wielding hillbilly of TV?” is JEDI CLAMPETT (76 Across); a “Cranky question on the Himalayan trail?” is ARE WE THERE YETI (118 Across); a “Rotisserie on a Hawaiian porch?” is a LANAI TURNER (100n Across) and an “Invitation to cocktails with pianist Ramsey?” is MARTINI AND LEWIS (91 Across). That last one was the only clunker for me — never heard of Ramsey Lewis. Apparently he’s a jazz legend, according to his website, but I would have been more familiar with comedian Lewis Black or even explorer Meriwether Lewis.
The puzzle had some musical fun, too, starting with SINATRA (1 Across, “Ol’ Blue Eyes”), then doing a 180 with BAD GIRLS (8 Down, “Donna Summer #1 hit) and LALA (40 Across, “‘___ Means I Love You'[1968 Delfonics hit]) — Philly’s own Delfonics, I might add. And then there was 61 Across, “The Jackson 5 had five,” which I first thought was ALTOS. It was not. It was AFROS. Touche.
I’m going to take issue with PLAITS (121 Across, “Pigtails, etc.”) because my understanding is that plaits are braids. As any 5-year-old girl can tell you, braids are NOT the same as pigtails. But I loved the “Star Wars” reference in 95 Across (“Film character known for her buns”): LEIA.
Questions or comments? Twitter me @crosswordkathy.