THEME: PRE-fix — in four different theme answers, the prefix "PRE-" is ... prefixed ... to the second word of a familiar two-word phrase, creating a wacky phrase, which is clued "?"-style
Rex Parker here. I'm not used to seeing themes in my Friday puzzle. Over at the NYT, the Friday and Saturday puzzles are almost always themeless, and tough (today's certainly was). This puzzle, by contrast, was themed and comparatively easy, though it was certainly the toughest LAT puzzle of the week so far, and had some genuinely thorny parts. Why it took me only a third of the time that the NYT puzzle took me, I don' t know. The theme on this one took me a while to uncover — I didn't really get it until I was trying to put together "GET UP, PRELATE!" at 47A, where I noticed that the "PRE" part was ridiculous, and then looked back and saw that that was the issue with the earlier two theme answers as well.
- 20A: Undercover cop? (legal PRE tender) — legal tender = money
- 25A: Introduction to "SeinLanguage"? (funny PRE face) — "Funny Face" = Audrey Hepburn / Fred Astaire musical
- 47A: Words to roust an oversleeping ecclesiastic? (get up PRE late) — get up late = ... something you do when you're tired ... not the tightest base phrase in the world
- 54A: Cannery worker's credo? (born to PRE serve) — "Born to Serve" = yikes ... no idea what this is supposed to refer to. Google image search brings up equal parts worship and bondage / S&M. I thought "Born to Serve" was a famous motto of some sort. Maybe one of you has a clearer idea what the phrase is supposed to evoke.
Late-week puzzles tend to get tougher, and one way they achieve this toughness is by making the clues so vague they could mean many things — e.g. 28D: Outfit, and 29D: Pelt could both be used to clue either nouns or verbs ... and an "outfit" can be a company or group of some sort just as easily as it can be clothing. In this case "outfit" is a verb meaning EQUIP and "pelt" is a noun meaning FUR. Another late-week cluing feature is the deliberate fake-out or DEKE (to borrow a term from hockey), where the clue deliberately misdirects you, leading you to an interpretation that is all wrong. Today, we had the great 5D: A right might cause one (fat lip). Took me a while to figure out what kind of "right" was intended there. Then there's 9D: Domestic class, briefly. Something about that phrase evokes air travel (at least to me) even though I don't think "Domestic" is a class — you've got your first, your business, your coach, etc. Still "domestic" manages to conjure up the general airport milieu pretty well. Only "domestic" in this case refers specifically to one's residence, not one's home country, and the "class" part (the real kicker here) is a class one takes at school: HOME EC. I love the misdirective clue, as well as the way the answer looks in the grid — like one crazy word: HOMEEC! This brings us to another important part of solving: parsing. Sometimes a word you can't believe is a word is actually two words. AANDE (actually 3 wds). BIGD. TWOD. Yesterday, someone thought EDGESIN was one word. Parsing!
I'm a good solver, but nonetheless, nearly every puzzle holds mysteries for me, and this was no exception. I know what a FINN is, but I'd certainly never heard of the "markkaa" until today (25D: One who used to spend markkaa). I took some French and so know what PERDU means, but I've never seen it used to mean 11D: Concealed. Just "lost." I know squat about musical theater, but I knew enough about "AIDA" to put it in despite having zero familiarity with the song in question, 53A: Musical with the song "The Gods Love Nubia." And I've never even heard of this PBS show, "The HIPPY Gourmet" (9A: PBS's "The _____ Gourmet TV Show"). "HIPPY" is spelled "HIPPIE" in today's NYT puzzle clues. Curious.
- 24A: Storytelling slave (Remus) — Uncle Remus. I know *of* him but have no first-hand experiences of his stories. Maybe it's because they were compiled and adapted by a guy who romanticized and defended slavery and plantation life in general. No thanks.
- 65A: Placekicker Jason (Elam) — it may be years before he makes our "Crosswordese 101" list, so you may as well start remembering him right now. He's not that common, but he Will Come Back. He was a Pro Bowl kicker, a two-time Super Bowl winner with the Broncos, and he is tied with Tom Dempsey for the longest field goal in NFL history (63 yds). He is also the co-author of something called "Monday Night Jihad" — I can't bring myself to read much of it. It's here.
- 60A: Sulk (mope) — "Sulk" is one of my favorite comics of the past year. Indescribable. An ongoing series by writer/artist Jeffrey Brown. Maybe I like it because the first issue features a "superhero" called "Bighead." Did I mention I have a big head? Literally, if not figuratively? It's true.
- 61A: '60s quartet member (mama) — could also have been PAPA, I suppose.
- 58D: Key with four sharps: Abbr. (E Maj) — see, I don't know this stuff, but I know enough to put the "M" in there. It's gonna be some letter A-G, and the "M" and then either "AJ" or "IN."
More from me next week (M, F, sometimes W),
PG and Orange will take care of you 'til then,
Everything Else — 1A: Place for storage (SHED); 5A: Own (up) (FESS); 14A: Pamplona runner (TORO); 15A: __VistA: search engine (ALTA); 16A: Three-layer snacks (OREOS); 17A: Quaff (SWIG); 18A: Pond denizen (TOAD); 19A: Inspector on the telly (MORSE); 23A: Drama award (OBIE); 30A: Campus climbers (IVIES); 31A: Who, in Quebec (QUI); 32A: Babe in the woods (NAIF); 36A: Wyo. neighbor (NEB); 37A: Vue and Aura, in the auto world (SATURNS); 41A: Gp. with Bucks and Bobcats (NBA); 42A: Houston shuttle letters (NASA); 44A: T'ai __ (CHI); 45A: Weakened (WANED); 51A: New drivers, typically (TEENS); 59A: Battery connection (ANODE); 63A: It can pick up a plane (RADAR); 64A: Catalina, e.g. (ISLE); 66A: Sanctify (BLESS); 67A: Roe source (SHAD); 68A: __ vu (DEJA); 1D: Elm et al.: Abbr. (STS); 2D: React to a kneeslapper (HOWL); 3D: Part of a wet quintet (ERIE); 4D: Dad-blasted (DOGGONE); 6D: One skipping church? (ELOPER); 7D: Have the main role (STAR); 8D: "Smooth Operator" singer (SADE); 10D: Triathletes (IRONMEN); 12D: Models (POSES); 21D: Deep chasm (ABYSS); 22D: Bride follower (TRAIN); 26D: Eye layer (UVEA); 27D: His __: big shot (NIBS); 33D: Author Quindlen (ANNA); 34D: "Yeah, right!" (IBET); 35D: Diminish (FADE); 38D: "Don't __ surprised" (ACTSO); 39D: Holy day: Abbr. (THU); 40D: Any ABBA singer (SWEDE); 43D: Meeting plans (AGENDAS); 46D: Protected, as a home (ALARMED); 48D: Walks on stage (ENTERS); 49D: Spanish stewlike dish (PAELLA); 50D: Put on the line (RISKED); 51D: Relating to pitch (TONAL); 52D: Eat away (ERODE); 54D: Zinger (BARB); 55D: Greek letters (PSIS); 56D: Compensate for oversleeping (RUSH); 57D: Low-lying area (VALE); 62D: Org. with an online DoctorFinder (AMA).