I was really annoyed with myself last week. I finished the puzzle but had one really stupid mistake. This week, I’m feeling much better. A perfect finish! However, I had no idea what the circled letters meant, and how they related to the puzzle’s title. Then, it occurred to me that there might have been an explanatory note which M did not include when he printed the puzzle out for me. So, I asked him to take a look. Sure enough, there was one, and he read it to me. In each of the themed answers, the two circled letters had to be changed in order to reveal the name of a famous person. That – as the Staples tag line goes – was easy!
23A. Rods on a Cowboy Truck = Ranch Axle = Ray Charles
25A. Environmentally sound keyboard = Green Organ = Greg Norman
42A. 007 Strategy = Bond Plan = Bob Dylan
44A. High card up one’s sleeve = Inner Ace = Anne Rice
66A. Narrow Overhang = Slim Awning = Eli Manning
68A. Government register standing ready = Alert Rebel = Alex Trebek
85A. Shock a fairy-tale monster = Jolt Ogre = Joe Torre
89A: Nocturnal birds liable to keep people awake = Loud Owls = Lou Rawls
109A: Soup spoon designed for shellfish = Conch Ladle = Don Cheadle
11A: Last costume at a costume party = Final Guise = Tina Louis
27A. Prepare the soil for planting, perhaps. I got hung up thinking the answer was “rotation.. Correct answer: Rototill
24D. Part of “the many,” in Greek. Thinking that 27A was “rotation” kept me, at first, from getting this. Correct answer: Hoi. As in “the hoi polloi,” which sounds as though it should mean rich people when it actually means the common people or the masses.
78A. It often involves a Snellen chart. Correct answer: Eye exam. Acc. to Wiki, named after, Hermann Snellen, a Dutch ophthalmologist, who developed the chart in 1862.
A few literature-related clues but works I’m not familiar with, so I didn’t get the answers immediately:
98A. “Pastorals” poet. Answer: Pope. As a former English teacher (with an M.A. in English Literature), I have read other works by Alexander Pope.
98D. “The Prisoner” author. Answer: Proust. I’ve studied French literature, including some Marcel Proust.
100D. “A Free Man of Color” playwright. Answer: Guare. The only John Guare play I’ve seen is his most famous: Six Degrees of Separation.
These three answers in same section of the grid were the last I filled in. Finishing the puzzle perfectly hinged on getting 72 Down right.
82A. All, in old-time stage directions. Answer: Omnes
95A. Billiards shot. Answer: Masse
72D. Moved like water into plant roots. Answer: Osmosed