Take It From The Top

New York Times crossword Oct. 23 / Constructed by Joe DiPietro

Sorry this so late! If you saw my tweet earlier today,  you’ll know I have a relatively good excuse: I was working my actual job and didn’t have a chance to even look at the puzzle until after dinner.

Now that I’m done … eh. It was OK. I got tripped up in a couple of places — seriously, who calls a “King or queen” DYNAST (52 Down)? — but not on any of the theme answers. Actually, after glancing at the title I thought the theme would entail removing the first letter of a common phrase (“Take it from the top!”), thus turning it into something punny. But as far as I can see, the title only refers to the fact that all the theme answers go down. Am I missing something? Otherwise, the answers are just standard phrases paired with clever clues.

“Gets up for the debate?” is STANDS TO REASON (3 Down); “Beats it and won’t explain why?” is GOES WITHOUT SAYING (7 Down); “Proof that a ‘Jersey Shore’ character has an incontinence problem?” is DEPENDS ON THE SITUATION (8 Down); “Arrests an entire crime syndicate?” is RUNS IN THE FAMILY (13 Down); “Eschews Mensa material when going to parties?” is DOESN’T TAKE A GENIUS (33 Down); “Contents of Lenin’s Tomb, e.g.?” is REMAINS TO BE SEEN (42 Down); and “Merits at least a 20% tip?” is SERVES YOU RIGHT (50 Down).

Never Thought Of It That Way Dept.: “Entire ‘Reservoir Dogs’ cast, e.g.” is MEN (10 Down). And “Skinny” is NEWS (72 Across) — as in get the skinny on something. That took me an embarrassingly long time, considering I’m IN the skinny business.

Oh, I Remember That Guy Dept.: “Neurotic Martin Short character” is ED GRIMLEY (32 Across).

The Only Hun I Know Dept.: “Slayer of his brother Bleda” is ATTILA (15 Down). Guess that’s why I never knew Attila had a sibling — he killed him.

Hear Them Roar Dept.: “The Wildcats of the N.C.A.A.” in this case is KSU (48 Down), for Kansas State. In any other case, it could be Villanova, Arizona or Kentucky … and I’m sure there are more. Speaking of wild cats, I was heartbroken that so many beautiful tigers were among the animals shot in Ohio last week after being set loose by their troubled owner.

Fun Phrases Dept.: “Incredibly nice” is AS SWEET AS PIE (110 Across); “V formation?” is a PEACE SIGN (100 Across); “Change quickly” is TURN ON A DIME (107 Across); “Item in a certain e-mail folder” is a SENT MESSAGE (26 Across); and “Tone setters for conductors” are OPENING NOTES (24 Across).

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