Pullet

New York Times crossword June 12 / Constructed by C.W. Stewart

Today’s crossword was another puzzle in which the title was a homophone for the theme. “Pullet,” defined as a hen that is less than a year old, can also be heard as “pull it” — which is something you can do to all of today’s theme answers (conveniently identified by the asterisked clues).

What are these things you can pull? SALTWATER TAFFY (“*Boardwalk offering,” 23 Across); RELIEF PITCHER (“*Diamond substitute,” 38 Across); PUPPET STRINGS (“*Handy things for a toy?” 64 Across); PRACTICAL JOKE (“*Staple of ‘Candid Camera,'” 93 Across); LITTLE RED WAGON (“*Radio Flyer, e.g.,” 114 Across); ALL NIGHTER (“*Certain study session,” 3 Down); ONE’S LEG (“*Something to stand on,” 51 Down); and GUN TRIGGER (“*It may be found near a barrel,” 75 Down).

Honestly, I’ve never heard a bird referred to as a pullet; maybe I’m not on enough farms. But I have heard of it in the context of the “Pullet Surprise,” an aural play on the Pulitzer Prizes that is both a Looney Toons cartoon and an apparently short-lived, not-so-illustrious journalism award. (Announced in 1997 by Emory University, the Pullet Surprises appear to have been given out only once, in 1998, as far as I can tell.) “Pullet Surprise” can also be found in several book titles on Amazon.

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: ULEE (“1997 Peter Fonda title role,” 118 Across) is a pretty standard entry in grids these days, but its timing this week is perfect for promoting the City of Brotherly Love. Ulee (pronounced YOO-lee) is short for “Ulysses” — and this Thursday is when literary Philadelphians gather read aloud James Joyce’s classic of the same name. The day is called Bloomsday, after the main character Leopold Bloom, and it’s held each year on June 16, the same date the book takes place (in Dublin, Ireland, on June 16, 1904). Why do it in Philadelphia? Because the Rosenbach Museum has a complete manuscript of “Ulysses.”

Double-Up Dept.: “Believe in it” was the clue for both 7 Down — CREED — and 24 Down — TENET.

Synchronicity Dept.: The clue for “# # #” yielded the musical symbol SHARPS (68 Across). It’s also known telephonically as the “pound” sign and as the “hashtag” on Twitter. Another section of today’s NYT features an article on the hashtag’s “inventor.”

Too Much NASCAR Dept.: “Place for a pickup?” (47 Across) is not NAPA, as in the auto store that has spare parts for a truck, but NAPE, as in neck. My husband was watching the NASCAR race at Pocono on TV today and I think some exhaust fumes mysteriously traveled through our flat-screen and into my brain. I corrected my answer after solving the crossing word SHORTIE (“Shrimp,” 13 Down).

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