Use It Or Lose It

New York Times crossword April 24 / Constructed by Caleb Madison and J.A.S.A. Crossword Class

The title pretty much gave it away today: The theme answers are common phrases tweaked by either adding or subtracting the word “IT.”

Clues that use IT: BIG APPLE CIRCUITS (“Electrical paths in New York City?” 23 Across); LOSE ONE’S MOJITO (“Spill a Cuban drink?” 33 Across); POLITE DANCER (“One who says ‘Beg your pardon’ after stepping on your toes?” 41 Across); and PULPIT FICTION (“Preachers’ lies?” 63 Across).

Clues that lose IT: CENTER OF GRAVY (“What a mashed potato serving may have?” 73 Across); LEARNER’S PERM (“Hairdresser’s first do?” 94 Across); CLASH OF THE TANS (“Author Amy’s family squabble?” 102 Across); and SMOKEY AND THE BAND (“The Miracles?” 117 Across).

CSI: Brentwood Dept.: The clue for 89 Across (“‘___ Did It’ [2007 memoir]”) omitted reference to the book’s tarnished author: O.J. Simpson.

Social Networking Dept.: I never would have known the answer to “Facebook co-founder Saverin” — EDUARDO (38 Down) — had I not seen the stunningly well-crafted film “The Social Network.” Speaking of which, two other characters from the movie (and real life) recently lost a bid to reopen their settlement with Facebook’s other co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg, stemming from their claim that Zuckerberg stole their idea for the site. The Winklevoss twins are appealing.

Cartooning Around Dept.: The wholesome Peanuts and cynical Simpsons were included in the puzzle. “Comics character who said ‘Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life'” is LINUS (82 Down) and “__ Szyslak of ‘The Simpsons'” is MOE (118 Down).

Tone Deaf Dept.: Maybe I’m missing something, but SRO is not an appropriate answer for “Housing for the homeless: Abbr.” (39 Across). And I’m not sure I like the word “homey” in 123 Across, “Homey’s rep” (STREET CRED).

Extra Word Dept.: I think the clue for 83 Across mistakenly contained an extra “of”: “Abbr. unlikely to start of a sentence.” (The answer is ETC.)

Who Knew? Dept.: “Cookie first baked in Manhattan’s Chelsea district” is an OREO (90 Across).

About the Author(s) Dept.: So what exactly is this “J.A.S.A. Crossword Class” sharing credit with constructor Caleb Madison? The NYT crossword blog Wordplay explains that Madison is a young grid whiz who teaches a crossword class called “Get A Clue!” at the Jewish Association of Services for the Aged.

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