Something so BADASS about Johanna telling us to BEER ME! I've had many a BUD, STELLA, BLUE MOON, CORONA in my life. Oddly, CORONA sales went up last year. I'd bet a six-pack that their marketing team internally talked about secretly leaking rumors that drinking Corona cured corona.
And we have a NOONER? Plus, CORONA CIGARS? The LOTTERY?
Let's see, what vices haven't we covered …
I appreciated how well most of the beers were disguised. BUD is easy enough, but BLUE MOON innocently sits at the end of a great phrase. STELLA doesn't use the full brand name, "Stella Artois," but I never ask for a "Stella Artois" unless I want the bartender to roll their eyes at me.
I did hesitate on CORONA CIGAR. I get that there aren't many CORONA phrases available, except for the Virus Who Shall Not Be Named. However, it doesn't hide the beer well. I was happily mystified by the theme until hitting this one. The curtain got pulled back, and the Wizard was doing a kegstand.
Not sure what would have been better, perhaps something with MILLER? Or the GUINNESS BOOK?
I enjoyed so much of Johanna's fill, the casual AW C'MON, OH, OKAY, BEATS ME! Love the color.
Smart grid design, too. I'd have been tempted to push BEER ME down one row, but being up against CORONA CIGAR makes for much smoother crossings. Not a lot of A?B entries, but ABC is easy as ABC.
Impressive how carefully Johanna gridded things up, working in those great bonuses while only forcing us to deal with a bit of SYN, TSE.
I imagine some solvers more into CIGARS, and the LOTTERY will be drinking (four) cold ones for Johanna. This lightweight usually passes out at two.
Johanna's first pass contained synonyms for BLOW, like GASP, PANT, etc. It felt too loosey goosey, so I suggested the progression HUFF to PUFF to BLOW. I was sure there would be a ton of options for each themer, but it was surprisingly constrained. LEAVES IN A HUFF was an easy match for THE BIG BAD WOLF. PUFF and BLOW should be equally straightforward, right?
Wait a second! If Johanna gets the puzzle published, I'll be able to fill that in without a single crossing, and brag to everyone about it! I'll look like a genius!
This is why I like helping friends with crosswords.
Johanna also wondered who the heck KURTIS BLOW was, and thought BLOW BY BLOW might be better. THE BIG BAD WOLF was quite a blowhard, after all. (My sad joke, not hers.) I hesitated, but maybe Will would find that emphasis delightful?
Not so much.
Back to KURTIS BLOW! Who, of course, I knew all along. As my three-year-old son loves to say, you didn't have to tell me, I already knew that. Even before you asked.
Great to see Johanna take the plunge, building the grid from scratch. That's something all constructors should do for every crossword, but it can be so intimidating. Excellent results! I wouldn't have thought about centering THE BIG BAD WOLF and then breaking up the middle row with black squares, but it worked out well. US ATLAS and SKY HIGH are strong bonuses, as are OLD LACE and DO A FLIP. TALLY HO, indeed! All that with just a bit of ALEE, EINS, SSA.
My only issue is the NIKKI / KURTIS crossing, since NICKI / CURTIS is plausible. I'd have asked for a minor revision there.
Entertaining theme, solid fill. A treat to be on the sidelines for the entire process, rooting Johanna on.
The pleasure was all mine! Johanna is a delight to work with.
It's too bad Johanna's original concept didn't work out: kooky phrases resulting from BRA removals. I mean, BRAHMS LULLABY to the HMS LULLABY = a ship of peace? That's awesome!
Unfortunately, there just weren't enough others. BRAIN SURGEON to IN SURGEON, BRAIDED ROPE to IDED ROPE … hmm. Flat to non-sensical. Johanna came up with ZEN HUSSY (from BRAZEN HUSSY) … I decided it was best not to say anything on that one.
The grid skeleton was a pain to figure out, what with all the themers taking up so much real estate. I didn't like leaving those big NE / SW corners, but I couldn't figure out a way around them. Props to Johanna for tackling them with gusto! I thought we'd have to add a cheater square, maybe at the C of CLEVER. Not so, for CLEVER Johanna — CREDIT where CREDIT is due!
Synonyms for [Left speechless]; DUMBSTRUCK and GOBSMACKED are really lively words. I hadn't heard of KICKED IN THE HEAD in this sense, but apparently it was a phrase that came into widespread use back in Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.'s day. Nice throwback.
For me, BLEW AWAY and KNOCKED FOR A LOOP weren't as colorful as the others, as they both felt slightly off — BLOWN AWAY and THROWN FOR A LOOP, yeah? If only the latter options has worked for crossword symmetry.
People often ask me what I mean by "colorful." It's a completely subjective term, but for me, Johanna's upper right corner exemplifies the word. TAKE THAT! / HOOKAH / HECK YES! are all entries I'd be happy to see in a themelesses. They're fun to say, and they evoke vivid images in my mind. (Although smoking flavored tobacco out of a HOOKAH was much more fun in idea than in taste. And aftertaste.)
That corner also exemplifies the Constructor's Dilemma. On one side of the spectrum, you can make part of your grid perfectly smooth, but it comes out with no zing. On the other side, you can jam-pack it with great material, but that usually requires some gluey entries to hold it together. Is all the great fill up there worth TRA and CIEL/TIA crossing? I think so, but there's merit to the argument that the intersection of two foreign words — one requiring a pretty good background in French — isn't desirable.
Finally, really nice job with filling the west and east sections. Typically those are the hardest spots to get smooth in this configuration (two 15-letter entries in the middle of the grid). Having three consecutive down answers that intersect two themers, i.e. 25-D, 26-D, 27-D, is tough. Excellent work to escape both areas with only an ECONO prefix.