Ahoy! Greetings from Cape Cod, where we are spending a few days in the company of family and a huge, rambunctious Dalmatian named Dennis. Hopefully he won’t eat this laptop before I finish blogging.
Today’s puzzle is a twist on a twist: Instead of adding a single letter to common phrases to create punny answers, constructor Brendan Emmett Quigley has managed to add two. Both of them are “A”s, as the title implies, but they don’t appear consecutively. “Like the winner of the Miss Influenza pageant?” is SICK AND TIARAED (23 Across), which is “sick and tired” plus a couple of “A”s. And he’s got a lot more where that came from.
Others: “‘I can see Mexico’s southernmost state from this ship!’?” is CHIAPAS AHOY! (36 Across). “Funding for a Spanish seafood dish?” is a PAELLA GRANT (105 Across). “Far Easterners signed to a St. Louis ball team?” are CARDINAL ASIANS (123 Across). “Steam bath enjoyed just before bedtime?” is a MIDNIGHT SAUNA (14 Down). “Dos Equis-filled item at a birthday party?” is a PINATA OF BEER (17 Down). “Pork-on-a-stick?” is PIG SATAY (46 Down). “Scent coming from a Netflix envelope?” is DVD AROMA (52 Down). “Answer to ‘Did you see which Greek goddess walked by?’?” is THAT WAS ATHENA (56 Down). And “Filthy kid’s laconic question?” is BATHTUB AGAIN? (63 Down).
Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “N.L. East team, on scoreboards” is PHI (8 Down), for the frustrating Phillies. Another “N.L. East team, on scoreboards” is NYM (124 Down), for the rival Mets.
New Clues Dept.: While we’re on the subject of baseball, the oft-used answer OTT had a different hint this time: “Mel who was portrayed in ‘Field of Dreams'” (7 Down). The clue is usually a double-entendre like “Giant bat.” (I tried to look up the actor who played Mel Ott in the movie but came up empty.) Another fairly common answer, MR T, came from the fun and informative clue “Entertainer with a Mandinka warrior haircut” (76 Across). He’s usually just referred to as a tough from “The A-Team” or “Rocky III.” (And I’ve never seen his hairstyle called anything but a mohawk.)
Lost In Translation Dept.: “Literally, ‘fire bowl'” is HIBACHI (61 Across).
Island Time Dept.: “Jamaican music” is SKA (95 Down), while “Jamaican fellow” is MON (96 Down).
Coincidence? Dept.: “Wine: Prefix” is OEN (28 Down), which just happens to cross with SANGRIA (“Tapas bar order, 41 Across).
Egocentric Dept.: “Me! Me!” is I DO I DO (22 Across). “Words before and after ‘what'” are I AM (91 Across), as any Popeye fan would know.