New York Times crossword Jan. 20 / Constructed by Yaakov Bendavid

Hmmm. “Awe-inspiring” would not be the phrase I’d use to describe this puzzle, even though those words are the source of the theme.

Constructor Yaakov Bendavid tweaks the phrase with an “L” sound to yield the title “All-Inspiring.” The theme answers follow this pattern too, adding an “L” sound to common phrases. So a “Fencing coach’s pronouncement?” is DUEL AS I SAY (11 Down) and “Prince’s pottery equipment?” is THE ROYAL WHEEL (23 Across).

Others: “Haymakers?” are GREEN BALE PACKERS (14 Down). “Strategy employed by a Siberian Hansel and Gretel?” is ICE CUBE TRAIL (3 Down). “Stop proceeding in the maze when you reach the end?” is DO NOT PASS GOAL (104 Across). “‘Waiter, we ordered the fish!’?” is I TOLD YOU SOLE (58 Down). “Advice to Jonah?” is GET OUT OF THE WHALE (36 Down). And “Approach a thruway booth?” is HEAD TO TOLL (67 Down).

Meh. There were some interesting entries in the grid, but the theme answers weren’t among them. Unusual entries included LOT’S WIFE (“Biblical figure punished for hindsight?” 18 Down), EAST L.A. (“Calif. barrio setting,” 90 Down), LITTORAL (“Of the seashore,” 17 Down) and SNAPLESS (“Fastened with Velcro, e.g.,” 19 Down).

Listen Up Dept.: “Chefs hate hearing them” is UGHS (9 Down), while “Teachers love hearing them” is AHAS (98 Across).

Learn Something New Every Day Dept.: “Firearm company for nearly five centuries” is BERETTA (25 Across).

Tricky Dept.: “President who was an electrician by profession” (79 Down) refers not to an American leader but to Lech WALESA of Poland. Speaking of presidents, Barack Obama quietly took the oath of office today at the White House. He’ll do it again tomorrow in front of about 800,000 people.

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: “Hails from Rocky Balboa” are YOS (84 Across)! And a “Hooter” is an OWL (34 Across). Hooter the Owl happens to be the mascot for Temple University.

Fermented Curd Dept.: “Soft cheese” is BRIE (39 Across), “Semisoft cheese” is GOUDA (96 Across), and “Hard cheese” is EDAM (80 Across). After all that, you really should watch Monty Python’s classic “Cheese Shop” sketch.

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2 thoughts on “All-Inspiring”

  1. Merl Reagle’s puzzle is “Pre-K” — not “L” — and it doesn’t require any changes in spelling… I did enjoy the “Cheese Shop.”

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