THEME: Numerical prefixes — three theme answers begin with UNI-, BI-, and TRI-, respectively
Hello and welcome to "L.A. Crossword Confidential," a daily blog about the L.A. Times crossword puzzle. My name is Rex Parker and I've been writing a daily blog about the NY Times crossword puzzle ("Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle") since October 2006. There are now at least five (!?) daily blogs dedicated to discussing the NYT puzzle, but only one, "Diary of a Crossword Fiend," ever discusses the LAT puzzle, and then only briefly. So in the interest of spreading the puzzle infotainment around, and shining some light on one of the better puzzles in the country, my colleagues Orange and PuzzleGirl and I (I don't know if they're using their real names yet, so I'll just call them by their online monikers for now) have started this blog. You'll get the solution (a completed grid), commentary on the content and quality of the puzzle, and (from time to time) tips on becoming a better solver. We'll also have a regular feature called "Crosswordese 101," where we'll draw attention to the frequently recurring 3- and 4-letter words that every constant solver needs to know. The whole blog will likely feel pretty improvisational for a while, but should take some kind of definitive, regular shape as it evolves.
You are encouraged to discuss the puzzle with us (and others) in the Comments section (just click "Comments" at the bottom of the write-up). While our posts will be addressed to solvers of all skill levels, we're particularly interested in helping novice and aspiring solvers develop their appreciation and understanding of crosswords. We're hoping a community grows up around this blog as it has around our other ones. So here we go ...
Crosswordese 101: Wow. So much great stuff to choose from. I guess, given this grid, I'd have to start with ELSA (36D: "Born Free" lioness). The lioness clue is ELSA's most common incarnation, though there's an astonishing number of other ELSAs out there that editors can throw at you later in the week (when the puzzles get more difficult): [Designer Schiaparelli], ["Lohengrin" lass], [Socialite Maxwell], etc. The main goal with the lioness is not to get her confused with the lady who requested "As Time Goes By" in "Casablanca": ILSA. I confused ELSA and ILSA for years and still occasionally have to pause for a second to remember which is which. ILSA just sounds more animal to me, for some reason. I have similar trouble with AXEL/AXLE, but more on that another time.
On to Pancho's puzzle — early-week puzzles always have themes. Sometimes they are very clever, and sometimes they are just a very basic organizing principle for the puzzle's longer answers. Today's falls under the latter category, but on a Monday, frankly, this isn't a bad thing. Themes are important, and clever ones are entertaining, but if the rest of the fill in the grid isn't solid and vibrant, or if your theme is overly cutesy to the point where it hurts my teeth or strains my tolerance for the bendiness of the English language, that's not good. Sometimes being straightforward and inoffensive is a good bet, and today's UNI- BI- TRI- progression succeeds on that level.
- 20A: All-in-one entertainment gadget (UNIversal remote)
- 38A: Pact between two countries (BIlateral treaty)
- 57A: Geometric solid with five faces, ironically (TRIangular prism)
["... my brain IBM"]Despite finishing this in just a shade over three minutes, I had some mis-steps. I had SCOUR for SCRUB (1D: Clean using elbow grease). I'm pretty sure I've seen EROO (16A: Suffix with switch) spelled AROO in the past, but maybe I'm thinking of KANGA; anyhow, I left the first letter there blank and waited for the cross. Nothing else here provided any real resistance, though I can imagine people tripping all over "ELENI" (2D: 1985 Malkovich film), which I have only ever encountered in crosswords. Crosswords keep telling me that "ELENI" is both a book and a film, but thus far, first-hand experience of those phenomena has eluded me.
- 46D: Wolf Man player Chaney (Lon) — I thought this was LON Chaney, Jr. Hey, it is. Leaving the "Jr." out is legal, but feels wrong, especially since his father was an actor in horror films too.
- 45A: Blue _____: Duke University team (Devils) — they smashed the school where I teach in the opening round of the NCAA tourney. My brackets are still holding up, but barely. I've got Kansas, Missouri, Gonzaga, and Pitt in the Final Four. I'm beginning to wonder what I was thinking / smoking.
- 23A: Photo shoot bathing suit (bikini) — first, I like that this clue rhymes. Second, I like the "K." I always like the "K" — it's my favorite letter. But all kinds of bathing suits are the subjects of photo shoots, not just BIKINIs. I'm not sure "photo shoot" is BIKINI-specific enough, but it's hard to argue. I mean ... the rhyming. It's adorable, really.
Everything Else — 1A: Belgrade native (SERB); 5A: Unmarried woman's title (MISS); 9A: Try out (TEST); 13A: Crime scene find (CLUE); 14A: Pleasant scent (AROMA); 17A: 2000s sitcom starring a country singer (REBA); 18A: Ignited again (RELIT); 19A: Auth. unknown (ANON); 24A: Coin of the __: legal currency (REALM); 25A: Mt. Rushmore's state (S. DAK.); 27A: Intelligence, slangily (SMARTS); 31A: In the past (AGO); 34A: Colorful quartz (AGATE); 37A: Durable wood (TEAK); 42A: "__ Almighty": 2007 Steve Carell film (EVAN); 43A: Where sailors go (TO SEA); 44A: Director Spike or Ang (LEE); 48A: Part of A.D. (ANNO); 50A: Frames of mind (MOODS); 53A: Pound's 16 (OUNCES); 61A: Puniest pup (RUNT); 62A: Swarming pests (GNATS); 63A: Opposed to (ANTI); 64A: Advantage (EDGE); 65A: Busybody (YENTA); 66A: Exam for future Drs. (MCAT); 67A: Bird feeder food (SEED); 69A: Combustible funeral heap (PYRE); 3D: See 10-Down (RUBIK); 5D: Ceremony at an altar (MARRIAGE); 6D: Angers (IRES); 7D: Alternative energy type (SOLAR); 8D: Show one's pearly whites (SMILE); 9D: Fellow Dodger, e.g. (TEAMMATE); 10D: With 3-Down, inventor of a puzzling cube (ERNO); 11D: Chimney buildup (SOOT); 12D: Muscle quality (TONE); 15D: Gillette razors (ATRAS); 21D: Be over by (END AT); 22D: Nightmare street of film (ELM); 26D: Go-__: small racer (KART); 28D: Genuine (REAL); 29D: Westminster art gallery (TATE); 30D: Terrier named for a Scottish isle (SKYE); 31D: Still in the sack (ABED); 32D: Donate (GIVE); 33D: Patron saint of Norway (OLAV); 35D: Chinese "way" (TAO); 39D: Like many Disney films (ANIMATED); 40D: Bill Clinton's instrument (TENOR SAX); 41D: Incurred, as debts (RAN UP); 47D: Waterlogged (SOGGY); 49D: Freeway entrance (ON-RAMP); 51D: Saharan hills (DUNES); 52D: Viewpoint (SLANT); 55D: To be, in Tijuana (ESTAR); 56D: Clobber, in the Bible (SMITE); 57D: Uno plus dos (TRES); 58D: Discourteous (RUDE); 59D: "Picnic" Pulitzer winner (INGE); 60D: ABA member (ATTY.).