Stir Crazy

New York Times crossword June 2 / Constructed by Elizabeth C. Gorski

You’ll be seeing red – and blue – by the time you’ve finished today’s colorful and challenging puzzle. Though I wasn’t crazy about the title, constructor Elizabeth C. Gorski still had me marveling at her creativity.

I realized something clever was afoot when I ended up with E-R-_ for 8 Down, which was clued as “Flubbed it.” The past tense meant it couldn’t be ERR – but ERRED would require the word RED to be squeezed into a single square. Not an impossible thought, right? I checked the crossing clue at 22 Across, and the letters I had already entered there made it seem just as clear that the word BLUE would also have to be crammed into that same square to complete the phrase TALKED A (BLUE) STREAK (“Chattered on and on and on.”)

Surely it was no coincidence that RED and BLUE might fit into a single box. But what was the theme? I scanned the clues and got my answer at 116 Across – “Alice Walker novel … or a hint to 12 squares in this puzzle”: THE COLOR PURPLE.

You'll be seeing red – and blue – after solving this puzzle.
You’ll be seeing red – and blue – after solving this puzzle.

Which brings me back to the title: “Stir Crazy” apparently refers to mixing red and blue to make purple. For me, however, the phrase mostly conjures up thoughts of the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor comedy of the same name. A title like “Purple Prose” might have been too big a hint, and I guess technically random words don’t constitute “prose.” But “Stir Crazy” was kind of lame. Maybe something about a painter’s palette? Other suggestions?

Other theme answers: (BLUE) IN THE FACE (“Extremely exasperated,” 35 Across) crosses with (RED)EEM (“Exchange for cash,” 35 Down). MY (BLUE) HEAVEN (“1990 Steve Martin/Rick Moranis comedy,” 38 Across) crosses with CO(RED) (“Prepared, as apples for baking,” 27 Down). SEA (BLUE) (“Aqua,” 44 Across) crosses with (RED) BARON (“Snoopy’s archenemy,” 45 Down). DRESS (BLUE)S (“Formal military attire,” 62 Across) crosses with SH(RED)S (“Tatters,” 51 Down). And (BLUE) BOOK (“Final exam handout,” 61 Across) crosses with FAVO(RED) (“Likely to win,” 37 Down). Do they even use blue books anymore?

More: (BLUE) PERIOD (“Phase associated with Picasso’s ‘The Old Guitarist’,” 65 Across) crosses with (RED) HOT (“Super-popular,” 65 Down). (BLUE) BEARD (“Brutal castle dweller in folk tales,” 86 Across) crosses with (RED) AS A BEET (“Visibly embarrassed,” 86 Down). And (BLUE) BOY (“Thomas Gainsborough masterpiece, with ‘The’,” 88 Across) crosses with PAI(RED) (“Matched [up],” 70 Down).

The last ones: AM I (BLUE)? (“1929 Ethel Waters hit whose title is a question,” 90 Across) crosses with C(RED)O (“Belief system,” 84 Down). SOMETHING (BLUE) (“One of four items worn by a bride, traditionally,” 102 Across) crosses with BIG (RED) (“Nickname for Secretariat,” 83 Down). And (BLUE) ANGEL (“Navy pilot putting on a show,” 114 Across) crosses with SHO(RED) UP (“Strengthened,” 98 Down). The Blue Angels haven’t been putting on any shows recently, however, because of federal budget cuts.

Working On The Railroad Dept.: It may be shaped like a bullet train, but you can’t compare the ACELA (“Amtrak bullet train,” 106 Down) with the speed and efficiency of its counterpart in Japan.

Liner Notes Dept.: In addition to the aforementioned Ethel Waters clue, there were quite a few musically inclined entries in this grid. They include SAM COOKE (“‘You Send Me’ singer,” 1 Across); LOST LOVE (“Theme of many a country song,” 33 Across); MOONDANCE (“Title song of a 1970 Van Morrison album,” 55 Across); OLETA (“Adams with the 1991 hit ‘Get Here’,” 9 Across); and STEVEN (“Tyler of rock,” 18 Down).

Non-Glass Menagerie Dept.: The grid featured a trio of interesting animals – BULBULS (“Songbirds in ‘The Rubaiyat’,” 87 Down), an OSTRICH (“Seven-foot runner,” 9 Down) and a PIT BULL (“Relentless fighter,” 96 Down).

Other Fun Entries Dept.: NO CAN DO (“Fuggedaboutit!’,” 56 Down), LORELEI (“Rhine siren,” 10 Down) and TOE LOOP (“Skating move,” 94 Down).

Repeat That? Dept.: The doubled clued “Sleuth, in slang” yields GUMSHOE at 21 Down and TEC at 85 Across.

Philly Shout-Out Dept.: I’ll go back to SH(RED)S for this category, but with an altered definition. Skateboarders in Philly have been banned for years from the shredding mecca known as Love Park, but a couple of weeks ago they got a new public space for practicing ollies and the like: Paine’s Park.

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.

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