Space Invasion

New York Times crossword Oct. 7 / Constructed by Zoe Wheeler

Greetings, earthlings! Today’s puzzle has some undocumented aliens hidden in the theme answers. The title “Space Invasion” refers to ETs — not extra-terrestrials, but actual letters inserted into everyday phrases to form amusing new ones. So “Earth, in ‘Independence Day’?” becomes a PLANET OF ATTACK (95 Across).

Others: “Excitement over some presidential selections?” is CABINET FEVER (63 Across). “Old AMC car that came fully loaded?” is HORNET OF PLENTY (23 Across). “Good locale for adoptions?” is BIRTH MARKET (30 Across). “Ammo that’ still on the store shelf?” is SITTING BULLET (39 Across). “Some bleating?” is RACKET OF LAMB (53 Across). “Avoid a scalping?” is ESCAPE HATCHET (74 Across). And “ID for a certain band member?” is a TRUMPET CARD (87 Across).

Locked Out Dept.: “People wear masks in this: Abbr.” is NHL, although no one is wearing them now because the league canceled the first two weeks of the regular season.

Haha Dept.: “He-man’s nickname” is MUSCLES (72 Across).

Complaints Dept.: A few spelling “variations” threw me off. In fact, I’d go so far as to say BOOTEE (“Infant’s shoe,” 101 Across) is flat-out wrong — the word is “bootie.” And the grid uses REATA (“Rodeo rope,” 88 Down) instead of the more common “riata.” The abbreviation TRANQ (“Downer, for short,” 1 Across) for “tranquilizer” seemed to be pushing it, too, but maybe that’s just because I’ve never taken one. And since when is “prose” a verb? Yeah, I’m talking to you, 20 Across: PROSED (“Did ordinary writing”). Really?

Game Show Dept.: “Good ‘Wheel’ buy for WHERE’S THE BEEF” is AN E (15 Down). “Providing of questions for answers on ‘Jeopardy!,’ e.g.” is FORMAT (66 Down).

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “‘Grease’ singer” Frankie VALLI (79 Across) is the grand marshal of today’s Columbus Day parade in Philly.

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