Front Flips

New York Times crossword April 21 / Constructed by Jonah Kagan

I just flew in from San Francisco yesterday morning, and boy are my arms tired. (Rim shot.) Actually, my brain is tired because I took the red-eye and am still a little behind on my sleep. Good thing today’s puzzle required only basic mental gymnastics – or “front flips,” as the title calls them.

The theme requires solvers to reverse (“flip”) the first (“front”) word of several common phrases in order to create amusing new ones. Thus “Keep under wraps” becomes PEEK UNDER WRAPS, the answer to “Try to see what you’re getting for Christmas?” (34 Across).

Others: EVIL FROM NEW YORK (“Tammany Hall corruption, e.g.?” 24 Across); PERP SCHOOL (“Academy for criminals?” 45 Across); RAT’S TREK (“Journey from the nest to the kitchen, say?” 51 Across); POT SECRET (“Hidden drug habit, maybe?” 64 Across); GULP IT IN (“Drink greedily?” 76 Across); DOOM SWINGS (“Playground apparatus of the Apocalypse?” 81 Across); DIAL DOWN THE LAW (“Be a lenient judge?” 91 Across); and REVILED THE GOODS (“Maligned merchandise?” 105 Across).

Names You Don’t Hear Every Day Dept.: There were quite a few unusual first names in this grid, such as GUINEVERE (“Lover of Lancelot,” 110 Across), EMILE (“Actor Hirsch of ‘Speed Racer’,” 111 Across), JUDE (“Title fellow in a Beatles song,” 83 Down), the Jetsons’ ELROY (“Cartoon boy with an antenna on his cap,” 109 Across), OLIVIA (“Lover of Cesario in ‘Twelfth Night’,” 90 Down), DELIA (“One of the Ephrons,” 115 Across), IRMA (“‘Harry Potter’ librarian Pince,” 54 Across) and – my favorite reference of the day – TOBIAS (“‘Arrested Development’ character Funke,” 53 Across). Rumor has it they might make an “Arrested Development” movie. Also in this department is GERTIE (“‘___ the Dinosaur’ [pioneering cartoon short],” 17 Down), which I probably would have clued using a reference to Drew Barrymore’s character in “E.T.” In case you’re wondering about Gertie the Dinosaur (I was!), here’s a clip:

Love Is In The Air Dept.: A couple of long answers that did not fit the “flip” theme created a mini-theme of their own – FIRST KISS (“Memorable romantic moment,” 4 Down) and PROMISE RING (“Commitment signifier,” 63 Down). I’ll also put SAY ANYTHING (“1989 John Cusack romantic comedy,” 15 Down) in this category, since the film is perhaps most famous for its declaration-of-love scene featuring a boombox that blares Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.”

In Memoriam Dept.: “Margaret Thatcher, e.g.” was a LADY (50 Down). The former British prime minister was laid to rest last week. And film critic Roger EBERT wrote “Awake in the Dark” (46 Down). His funeral was held earlier this month in Chicago.

Doubled-Up Dept.: “Land on the Arctic Cir.” is NORW, for Norway (80 Down), while “Arctic Circle sights” are BERGS (96 Down).

Sick As A Dog Dept.: The doubled clue “Possible flu symptom” yields both AGUE (93 Down) and NAUSEA (94 Down).

Words I’ve Never Heard Dept.: ESKER (“Gravelly ridge,” 18 Down) and ATRIP (“Up, as an anchor,” 39 Across).

Need some solving tips and tricks? I’ve posted some here. Feel free to ask questions or leave comments below. You can also visit my Facebook page, or tweet me @crosswordkathy.

(This post was updated to include the Roger Ebert reference.)

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