Bill Maher said this one on his show last week, referring to Nate Silver’s analysis of the election and why people should listen to him. It is a mashup of “crunch the numbers” (performs numerous calculations) and “crack the code” (solve a difficult problem or mystery). “Crunching” and “cracking” are both similar sounding words (lots of onomatopoeia going on here), contributing to the merry mixup. A code usually involves numbers, so that might have been swirling in the speaker’s brain at the time. Another tip of the crack to Mike Kovacs who heard this one.
An architect was discussing changing pricing during negotiations and uttered this malaphor. I believe it is a combination of “sharpen our pencil” (give a good deal) and “tighten up” (to become more restrictive or miserly). “Crunch the numbers” (doing calculations) might also be in the mix, although it doesn’t fit within the context. Yvonne Shipley suggests “tighten our belts” might also have been on the speaker’s mind. I think that is very possible. A shout out to Jim Washabaugh for hearing this one and passing it on!