Today’s puzzle features a basic pun theme where an “in” sound gets added to end of familiar phrases, creating wacky ones. It’s not just adding the letters IN to phrases, since the spelling changes from the original phrase as well.

  • 23A: [Place where Dracula rests and shouts in excitement?] is WHOOPING COFFIN, based on whooping cough.
  • 35A: [Part of an Ocean Spray snack for a ballerina, say?] is DANCE CRAISIN, based on dance craze.
  • 50A: [Actor Alan, when he gives a thrilling performance?] is ELECTRIC ARKIN, based on electric arc.
  • 68A: [Terse way of asking Monty Python member Michael if he wants to grab a midday bite?] is LUNCH PALIN, based on lunch pail.
  • 70A: [Actor Firth’s plundering pirate nickname?] is BOOTY COLIN, based on booty call. I tamed this one down from its slightly risque basis, but I thought the pirate image was amusing.
  • 84A: [Hogwarts professor Remus, when giving students responses on their assignments?] is FEEDBACK LUPIN, based on feedback loop.
  • 102A: [Let go of a washbowl?] is DROP THE BASIN, based on drop the bass.
  • 114A: [Singer Bobby, when he would walk a pair of pooches?] is DOUBLE DOG DARIN, based on double dog dare.

Pronunciation themes tend to be somewhat risky since there’s always a chance that solvers in different regions will pronounce the answers differently than what the constructor had intended, but I’m hoping these eight answers are all accurate enough so you won’t have any trouble figuring out which phrases they’re based on. Some answers I left out include EGG NOGGIN, GROUND FLORIN, MOUNTAIN ERIN (or MOUNTAIN AARON), and JUST BE COUSIN. I liked that last one since it sounded like a bizarre command you’d give to your cousin, but again, the pronunciation gave me some pause; there’s a little more emphasis on the “be” of JUST BE COUSIN than in the phrase “just because.”

Other answers and clues:

  • 9A: [___ Awareness Month (annual period to raise awareness and foster inclusion of those with hearing loss)] is DEAF. This takes place in September, at least in the U.S.
  • 120A: [“Happy to Be Here” comedian Tig ___] is Tig NOTARO. She had what I thought was a great premise for a talk show in “Under a Rock With Tig Notaro” — she’s open about the fact that she doesn’t know much about pop culture and doesn’t recognize many celebrities, so she would invite a guest star and guess who they are and what they’re known for. Here’s one episode featuring Lena Headey that you can watch. Notaro also has a recurring role on “Star Trek: Discovery,” and I’ve gotten to watch that as well.
  • 126A: [Those featured on the websites Love Meow and BarkPost] is PETS. Just a couple of A+ names for websites, in my opinion. They’re both real, too.
  • 14D: [Music genre that developed from the D.C. punk rock scene] is EMO. It’s true, D.C. readers.
  • 49D: ["___ You Afraid of the Dark?” (1990s Nickelodeon series)] is ARE. I never had cable TV when I grew up, so I only got to watch maybe one episode when I was visiting a friend’s house. However, there was one aspect of the show that crept into another part of my life in the mid-1990s in an unexpected way. When I was in fifth grade, I wrote a scary short story for a young authors’ contest at my school about monsters who live in the shadows and come out at night to attack children. I called this story “The Midnight Society.” I had zero idea at the time that this was the same name of the group of kids who tell each other scary stories in “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” I just picked that title because, well, I thought it sounded cool, but you could be forgiven for thinking I’d based the entire thing on a Nickelodeon show. My school must have thought the same since I won first place in the contest and got to go to a young author’s conference in downstate Illinois. Sadly, I never adapted “The Midnight Society” into a screenplay to pitch to the writers of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” They probably would have thought it needed some revisions.
  • 115D: [“Red Iron ___" (folk song about mining in the Great Lakes region)] is ORE. I didn’t just randomly mine the Internet (pun intended) to write this clue. This is a song I actually knew, although I’d only discovered in October. Each month, as a wrap-up for his Monthly Music Meta, Pete Muller posts solvers’ suggestions for music-based clues for answers that didn’t have music-based clues (you can find examples of them at the 2021 Puzzles page of his website). He had ORE in his October puzzle, so I went looking for a musical angle to that clue and stumbled upon the song “Red Iron Ore.” I took a shine to that song almost right away. In fact, just one week after I first heard it, I crash-coursed the sheet music and used it as my re-audition song for my choir, the Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia. From there it was only a small leap to resolve that I would use it in a clue the next time ORE showed up in a grid. I’m not sure if that’s an example of life imitating art, or art imitating life, or puzzles imitating both. Either way, you can listen to a recording of the baritone Andrew Garland singing it here.

What did you think?