I took eight songs and made them the theme songs to eight different TV shows since the TV title literally hints at the song title. The song’s artist is in parentheses in each clue, and I linked to the music video for each song below in case you want to give them a listen:
- 23A: [Alternative theme song to “Parenthood”? (Guns N’ Roses)] is “SWEET CHILD O’ MINE.” Maybe slightly tough to remember the “of” is abbreviated in the song title, but it’s arguably the most famous song in this list outside of maybe 97A.
- 35A: [Alternative theme song to “Cosmos”? (the Beastie Boys)] is “INTERGALACTIC.” I hadn’t heard of this song before writing the puzzle, but it fits.
- 43A: [Alternative theme song to “Band of Brothers”? (Sister Sledge)] is “WE ARE FAMILY.”
- 65A: [Alternative theme song to “The Fugitive”? (REO Speedwagon)] is “TAKE IT ON THE RUN.”
- 74A: [Alternative theme song to “Alias”? (the Ting Tings)] is “THAT’S NOT MY NAME.”
- 97A: [Alternative theme song to “Survivor”? (the Bee Gees)] is “STAYIN’ ALIVE.”
- 106A: [Alternative theme song to “Wings”? (Frank Sinatra)] is “COME FLY WITH ME.”
- 118A: [Alternative theme song to “Bewitched”? (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins)] is “I PUT A SPELL ON YOU.”
Normally, when I have a theme like this, I like to list off several answers that could have worked but I left on the cutting-room floor. Instead, I recall that most of my theme generation process this time was a series of near-misses — meaning, theme songs that didn’t quite match as well as I (and my test-solvers) would have liked. For instance, WHO’S THAT LADY by the Isley Brothers didn’t quite work for the show “New Girl” because I didn’t think “Lady” could be synonymous with “Girl.” BREAKING THE LAW by Judas Priest was a near miss for “Criminal Minds” because, even though criminals do break the law, I didn’t think it got at the “Minds” part of the TV title. BORN IN THE USA by Bruce Springsteen is an obvious fit for “The Americans,” and I did nearly run with it, except the “Americans” would be repeated in the song title itself (at least as an abbreviated A; that’s generally why you don’t see clues like [America] for the answer USA).
The biggest near miss, however, was a title I originally had in the puzzle, but then ripped out to replace it with a new one after test-solvers got a look at it. It was THUNDERSTRUCK by AC/DC as an alternative theme song to “Speechless.” While the two words can be considered synonyms, the trouble is that the TV show focuses on a child who’s nonverbal, and the other TV shows have a more literal connection with the theme song. “Thunderstruck” could potentially have been a more literal theme song for something on the Weather Channel or the Discovery Channel show “Storm Chasers,” except that show is about tornadoes rather than simply thunder, and many Weather Channel shows aren’t nearly as well-known as the others in the set. So it took some major surgery to replace THUNDERSTRUCK, and the replacement was COME FLY WITH ME.
Even with all of those near-misses, though, I think it’s a theme that has a potential to make a return at some later date. There are surely many shows that could get literal theme song interpretations, so I’ll just wait to list them out until next time.
Other answers and clues:
- 1A: [He has many hands and a prosthetic leg] is AHAB. I started off right away with something tricky in that the “hands” refer not to his body parts, but his crew members.
- 50A: [Film whose first spoken word is “Mozart!”] is AMADEUS. I got to sing in the background chorus during a live concert/movie showing of “Amadeus” in 2017. Mozart’s music was not so bad.
- 114A: [Like many of the references in the book “Ready Player One”] is RETRO. Funny that I mentioned Matt Gaffney earlier as this was also the answer to a recent metapuzzle of his, so it’s a timely answer even if the word itself refers to untimely things.
- 4D: [Social spot with steins] is BEER GARDEN. My wife and I once had a one-day stopover in Frankfurt, Germany, and we got to eat and drink at a beer garden next to a group of middle-aged gents celebrating a husband-to-be at a bachelor party. I’d recommend it.
- 6D: [Chicago mayor Emanuel] is RAHM Emanuel. Although he won’t be mayor for much longer; the runoff to select a new mayor will be next month.
- 33D: [Brand whose website could ask users to accept cookies, aptly] is OREO. Look, it’s always hard to find new ways to clue this answer, but I’m hoping this is fresh enough.
- 64D: [Gob stopper?] is AVAST. My favorite clue today.
- 80D: [They hold contacts and lenses] is CELLPHONES. One day scientists will invent a way to implant cellphones in our brains so we can take pictures just by blinking.
- 107D: [Onomatopoeic snatching sound often uttered on “The Simpsons”] is YOINK. Here’s a montage of Simpsons clips where they say that word if it’s new to you.
Heads-up about next week’s puzzle: It has a meta. You’ve got this.