Wisecracks

New York Times crossword May 20 / Constructed by Alan Arbesfeld

Despite today’s puzzle title, this grid is not filled with wisecracks. But it was constructed by a wise guy — or “Y’s guy,” I should say. The theme answers are all common phrases minus the letter Y. So 23 Across, “Chocolat, say?” is not a movie reference but a TREAT OF VERSAILLES. And 70 Across, “‘Don’t let that youngster get off without paying!’?” is BILL THE KID.

Others: A “Macho drag queen?” is A STUD IN SCARLET (39 Across). “Like literary classics?” are GOOD AND READ (50 Across). “Call to the bar?” is a BEER BELL (54 Across). “Like a centaur?” is PART ANIMAL (68 Across). An “Unbiased account?” is a FAIR TALE (86 Across). “Announcement made by a transplant surgeon, perhaps?” is LIVER STABLE (89 Across). “Stigmatize a ‘great’ king?” is BRAND ALEXANDER (97 Across). And “Two reasons to avoid a dog kennel?” are THE SOUND AND THE FUR (119 Across).

Twofer Dept.: The doubly-used clue “Lose it” yields GO POSTAL (18 Down) and EXPLODE (94 Down).

Famous Last Words Dept.: “Words from a con man” are TRUST ME (78 Across), a “Wonderland message” is EAT ME (127 Across), and an “Emphatic denial” is I SAID NO (29  Across).

For Fun Dept.: “Take a peke?” is not a typo (despite what my spellcheck thinks) but a clue for DOGNAP (36 Down). Think I would have capitalized “Peke,” though.

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: Although it was clued as “Little genius,” WHIZ KID (11 Down) was also how several of the 1950s Phillies could be described.

Learn Something New Every Day Dept.: Took me forever to puzzle out “It’s grounded every Saturday” but I finally got it: the Israeli airline EL AL (82 Down). Saturday, of course, is the Jewish Sabbath. Also, while I knew that “God with a shield” is ARES (14 Down), I did not know that a “Shield border” is called an ORLE (46 Across).

Worlds Collide Dept.: It was great to meet fellow journalist and cruciverbalist @cathgrimes at a writers conference this week!

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