Up Starts

New York Times, July 25

“Up Starts” is a clever way of saying: We changed the first letter of several common phrases, shifting it up one letter in the alphabet. So an “Ultimatum from a spouse who wants nicer digs?” (98 Across) is MOVE ME OR LEAVE ME (‘sted of “Love me or leave me”).

Others: “Cause for Adam to refuse the apple?” (23 Across) is FAST OF EDEN (‘sted “East of Eden”); “Precamping preparation?” (28 Across) is TENT PACKING (‘sted “Sent packing”); “Christmas, for Christians?” (35 Across) is SEASON TO BELIEVE; “Bountiful harvest?” (51 Across) is DREAM OF THE CROP; “Independence Day barbecue serving?” (67 Across) is CORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY; “Unnecessary part of a jacket?” (86 Across) is HOOD FOR NOTHING; “Refusing to watch football on New Year’s Day?” (106 Across) is NIXING BOWLS; and “Nathan’s annual hot-dog contest, e.g.?” (119 Across) is EATING GAME.

The theme seemed a little too simple to me; I kept thinking both major words in the phrases would have “up starts.” But there were nine theme answers, which is pretty impressive. Not many other clues caught my eye, with the exception of 77 Down, “Does, say” — SHES, as in more than one female deer. Took me a while.

Funny Coincidence Dept.: “PC key” (104 Across) is ESC, which also happens to be the button pictured on the cover of the NYT Magazine (scroll down after clicking link).

Never Thought of That Dept.: I’ve heard the word “pratfall” a million times, usually in the same sentence as “Chevy Chase” or “Jerry Lewis.” Never realized the word could be separated into its components, namely PRAT (“Rear end,” 2 Down).

Definition of Grounding Dept.: Not sure what kind of upbringing anyone else had, but NO TV (“Alternative to grounding,” 82 Down) pretty much meant you were grounded in my house.

Questions or comments? I’m on Twitter @crosswordkathy.

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