I always thought it was a little creepy to Google a constructor, but I'd never heard of Kenneth J. Berniker...so I did it. He's a neurologist and medical writer who has had at least one puzzle published in The Permanente Journal...click here to see (and solve) it...as well as a New York Times puzzle in December 2006.
I figured out the theme early on, but didn't realize that I had. In other words, I thought I had a bunch of wrong answers. The theme is revealed at 34D: Restricted space...or a hint to the answers to the six starred clues (NO FLY ZONE). The six theme answers are common words or phrases...each without its FLY.
17A: *Hairy-leaved plant (VENUS [FLY] TRAP). I would have preferred to see it clued in relation to this guy. I've probably said it before...I loved WKRP in Cincinnati. It was one of the funniest shows of its time.
24A: *Fighter at 112 pounds or less ([FLY]WEIGHT BOXER). My goal for this year is to get back into that category. I'm not sure it's possible.
37A: *Classic comical restaurant complaint (THERE'S A [FLY] IN MY SOUP). I knew this was the answer, but it just wouldn't fit. I ended up with all of the letters in place...but didn't know why.
45A: *Umpire's invocation after a pop-up, perhaps (INFIELD [FLY] RULE). Don explained this to me during the World Series, so this one came rather easily. That's when I realized that FLY was left out of the answers...and it all came together.
58A: *Advice to a careless dresser, maybe (ZIP UP YOUR [FLY]). Another gimme.
3D: *Unreliable sort ([FLY]-BY-NIGHTER). This was the hardest one to get. Trouble with some of the crosses didn't help. I wasn't sure if 1A: Jet referred to a plane or the color black...the answer was sable. For 14A: Indo-__, all I could think of was China...it wouldn't let Aryan come through. 23A: Bootblack's need (rag)...all I could think of was wax. Once that section came together, the puzzle was finished.
This was a pretty clever theme, and I enjoyed solving the puzzle. There were a few tough answers, but the crosses took care of most of them. The only one I'm still unsure about is 58D: Hole-punching tool for a slater. I have zax...which isn't listed in my dictionary. In fact, there isn't a three-letter word that starts and ends with those letters. I didn't check the grid on Across Lite, but I just checked JimH's blog, and he has the same answer. If I'm wrong, so is he.
Favorite clues or answers:
16A: Spam flavorer (clove). SPAM (the preferred way to write it) is big stuff in Hawaii. It's in every restaurant and on every breakfast menu...including Burger King's. I put a can in Don's stocking the Christmas after our first trip. I knew we'd never eat it...it ended up as part of a donation to the local food bank. This SPAM upside down pie doesn't look quite as tasty as the pineapple upside down cake from last Sunday.
22A: Parish V.I.P. (curate). I don't get the abbreviation in the clue...shouldn't that only be used if the answer is also an abbreviation?
31A: Seaver once called it home (Shea). Okay, I'm guessing that Seaver is a baseball player and it's referring to Shea Stadium. Yes...Tom Seaver.
41A: S.O.S., in essence (plea). I guess there can be abbreviations in clues, whether or not the answer is. My first answer was help, but plea is much better. I like that it looks as though it should rhyme with Shea.
43A: "__ sport" (be a). Three of them...all near one another!
44A: Singer Jacques (Brel). Totally unfamiliar. Tough crossing at 39D: Easily maneuvered, as a boat (yare).
57A: Traditional spy wear (cloak). I used this picture in an earlier blog, but I'm happy to have the chance to use it again. Spy vs. Spy was a favorite when I was a kid.
63A: Occasion to sing "Dayenu" (Seder). I'm not familiar with the song, but I am familiar with Seder. My best friend in high school was Jewish, and I was always part of their Seder dinner. This article explains what's on the Seder plate...and the significance of each food item.
11D: Bluesman Willie (Lomax). I don't know why I knew that, but I did. I definitely like seeing X used twice in the northeast corner.
22D: Third-stringers (C-team). I had C-list for a while...but at least I was on the right track this time.
25D: Villainous one in "The Lion King" (hyena). The hyenas always made me laugh...Scar was truly villainous.
One more thing that I just noticed...the similarity among 27D: Where punts were spent (Eire), 40A: Fictional governess (Eyre) and 56D: Assessor (eyer). I wonder if Dr. Berniker did that purposely?
I had some surprise news from the eye doctor. My prescription was reduced slightly...for both eyes. Could my vision actually have improved? Or is it more likely that I've been wearing glasses that were too strong and my eyes simply rebelled? Whatever...I got some really cool frames. A combination of purple and burgundy. My second pair (red) will have my midrange prescription, to help with long hours spent on the computer. Blogging and working take a toll on vision.
Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.