Say What?!

New York Times crossword June 19 / Constructed by Patrick Berry

My first reaction on solving today’s puzzle — Say What?! — was to ask the same of Will Shortz: What were you thinking? Not to be mean, because I realize these puzzles take at least five times as long to construct as they do to solve, but the theme was just kind of banal. Common phrases are grammatically tweaked to become snippets of dialog: “Stop right where you are, picture holder!” is FREEZE FRAME, or punctuated correctly, “FREEZE, FRAME!” (28 Across).

Others: “I’ve had enough, retail outlet!” is SHUT UP, SHOP! (23 Across); “You’re in danger, tall hill!” is LOOK OUT, MOUNTAIN! (44 Across); “The chair doesn’t recognize you, steakhouse and chophouse!” is SIT DOWN, RESTAURANTS! (54 Across); “I’d be miserable withou you, tapestry!” is DON’T LEAVE ME, HANGING! (76 Across); “Goodbye, place I used to live!” is FAREWELL, ADDRESS! (85 Across); “Just keep doing what you’re doing, suitcases!” is CARRY ON, BAGS! (104 Across); and “It was all my fault, gun attachment!” is SORRY, SIGHT! (112 Across).

Two I didn’t understand were AMEN, CORNER!, for “I agree completely, dog-eared bit of paper!” (25 Across), and ROGER, BACON!, for “I read you loud and clear, breakfast meat!” (110 Across). After looking up Roger Bacon, I felt a little embarrassed that I had not heard of this English philosopher/friar earlier. (Philadelphia, I might add, was home to both movie star Kevin Bacon and his urban planner father, Edmund Bacon.) As for “Amen corner,” all I can say is, well, Amen to learning new things.

Anyway. I guess my problem is that the fun seemed to lie mostly in devising crafty clues, which is gratifying for the constuctor, and not clever answers, which are gratifying for solvers. I suppose I shouldn’t complain, though, until I get my own Sunday puzzle published. (I’m still working on constructing daily size puzzles (15×15) that are NYT-worthy: Three half-finished grids have been languishing in my computer for way too long because I can’t make them work. Arrggghh.)

No More Nannies Dept.: EYRE (82 Across) wasn’t the governess of screen and literature but “Australia’s Lake ___ National Park.” Apparently, Lake Eyre is Australia’s largest salt lake.

Shameless Plugs Dept.: An “Acronymic weapon” (48 Down) is a TASER, which stands for Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle. It also is the title reference to “Tased and Amused,” a poetic recap of the 2010 baseball season by my friend Michael X. Ferraro. (The cover photo — taken by another friend, Steve Falk of the Philadelphia Daily News — shows a Phillies fan getting Tased after running onto the field during a game last season.)

Sweet Decapitation Dept.: “What you might get by moving a head?” (27 Across) is PEZ, the iconic candy dispenser.

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