New York Times crossword March 13 / Constructed by Patrick Berry
When I saw today’s dialogue-based theme clues in italics, my heart sank. Ugh, I thought. Not another bad joke like the “High School Reunion” puzzle from last month.
Well, it was almost that bad. The twist this week was that instead of a straight running joke through the puzzle, this dialogue — actually it’s a monologue — is filled with spoonerisms. The Rev. Spooner referred to in the title apparently has a habit of swapping the consonants in his phrases, rendering them … different, but unfortunately not that amusing.
So the story goes like this:
“I suppose it might seem odd that a reverend like myself would suddenly begin MARRYING THE KALE.” (23 Across). That would be instead of CARRYING THE MAIL. Get it?
“… but I’ve always thought MOST PASTORS had a more fun job than I do” (31 Across). “For an avid philatelist like me, sorting envelopes is thrilling — I might spot a STAIR RAMP!” (35 Across) “When a man is nervous about shipping breakables, I tell him, ‘CRACK YOUR PATE carefully, sir’ …” (48 Across) “… and I write ‘CANDLE WITH HAIR’ on the box, which seems to reassure him” (60 Across).
“The best part of the job, of course, is when I’m out on the street RAKING MY MOUNDS” (68 Across). “I’m a bit leery of dogs — it’s unsettling to enter a yard and hear some GROUND HOWLING at me …” (80 Across). “… but dogs can’t spoil how much I enjoy driving around in the TRAIL MUCK” (96 Across).
“Homeowners get excited when they see me opening their BETTER LOCKS …” (99 Across). “… and when I hand-deliver a package, the recipients are positively CHILLED WITH FEAR — it’s very satisfying!” (109 Across).
“Very satisfying” — I wish I could say the same for this puzzle. Meh.
Don’t Tase Me Bro! Dept.: “Hit with a charge” is TASE (36 Down), a term made famous by the viral video of the University of Florida student subdued in 2007 at a John Kerry rally. (It’s also the central action in this photo by my AP colleague Matt Slocum, who captured the use of a stun gun on Phillies fan Steven Consalvi.) According to the Associated Press Stylebook, by the way, Taser is trademarked name for a stun gun and an acronym for Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle.
Title Search Dept.: In 65 Down (“Title for de Stael: Abbr.”), I figured out the answer was MME (for “madame”) but still had no idea who it referred to. Wikipedia says it’s author Germaine de Stael.
Babbling Brook Dept.: I had no idea that “Babel” (78 Down) was more than just a biblical tower; apparently, it also means NOISE. Funny — “Babble” means pretty much the same thing.
And did anyone else notice the variety puzzle is an acrostic for the second week in a row? Isn’t is supposed to alternate weeks?