Working In Opposition

New York Times crossword May 8 / Constructed by Daniel A. Finan

Sigh. Doesn’t it always seem like a clever puzzle one week is followed by a dud? Last week’s “Look on the Bright Side” was creative, if less than stellar; this week’s “Working in Opposition” is unimpressive and might as well have been titled “Oxymoronic.”

The theme paired opposites into seemingly contradictory two-word phrases: In 23 Across, for example, “Capris?” are LONG SHORTS. The antonyms continue with ROUND FLATS (“Domes to let in London?” 30 Across); NEW OLDS (“Pre-2004 purchase from G.M.?” 38 Across); FAULTY SOUNDS (“Sour notes?” 47 Across); LITTLE LOTS (“Fractions of acres?” 56 Across) and the triply opposing — is that possible? — BAD FAIR GOODS (“Shabby wares sold at an expo?” 70 Across).

Others: LEFT RIGHTS (“What socialists campaign for?” 83 Across); LAST INITIALS (“B and O, for presidents #43 and #44?” 91 Across); PRO CONS (“Career criminals?” 101 Across); TAPED LIVES (“Material for a biographer with a recorder?” 111 Across); and TOP BOTTOMS (“Best-looking rear ends?” 121 Across).

Kentucky Derby Dept.: An “Ambitious track bet” is a TRIFECTA (57 Down), although apparently just picking the winner at Churchill Downs yesterday was pretty hard. Animal Kingdom took home the roses as a 20-1 longshot.

Shout-Out From Aunt Kathy Dept.: PETRA is a “Millennia-old Jordanian city that’s a World Heritage Site” (7 Down) as well as the name of my adorable niece. She can’t read this yet, but her parents can. Hi Petra!

Four-Legged Companion Dept.: “Animal shelter?” is an ARK (71 Down), as in Noah’s. It reminded me of a story I wrote last week about a movement by animal ethicists to reconsider the language we use when talking about pets. As part of that, I learned that animal welfare activists in California are trying to replace the word “pound” with “shelter” in all of the state’s animal control ordinances.

Fooled Ya! Dept.: “Rick who sang ‘Never Gonna Give You Up'” is ASTLEY (107 Across). He is also the source of the annoying trend known as Rick-rolling, which luckily seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years. That song was bad enough the first time around in 1987.

Walk Like An Egyptian Dept.: Somehow, Steve Martin as TUT still brings a smile to my face after all these years (“‘King __,’ song premiered on 27-Across on 4/22/78,” 66 Across). And 27 Across, of course, is SNL.

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