THEME: A Set of Rules — What the four theme entries have in common is that their first word can precede the word RULE, which appears at 62D.
Hello! Rex and PuzzleGirl already welcomed you here and entertained you. So am I here to wash the dishes and throw away the pizza boxes? Of course not. Let's crank up the music and keep this party rolling! Virtually, that is.
If you're new to the L.A. Times crosswords edited by Rich Norris, let me tell you—you are in for some quality puzzlin'. Here's the lowdown:
Monday through Friday, you get themed puzzles that gradually increase in difficulty as the week goes on, as in the New York Times. If you also do the NYT, you may be familiar with the crazy gimmicks that Will Shortz likes to provide on some Thursdays—things like more than one letter in a single square. The L.A. Times crosswords won't throw curveballs like that.
Saturday is the toughest day of the week in crossword land. Saturday's L.A. Times puzzle has no unifying theme to coax us along, and the vocabulary tends to be more ambitious. Be ready for tricky clues that require you to bend your brain, for alternate definitions for words, and for long answers featuring interesting phrases.
On Sunday, there are a couple puzzles with the Los Angeles Times imprimatur on them. In the dead-tree L.A. Times and on the paper's website, Sylvia Bursztyn's Calendar puzzle is a plus-sized Sunday puzzle that's not too tough. The syndicated Sunday L.A. Times crossword edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis does not appear in the L.A. Times, but it's syndicated nationwide. (Chicagoans may recognize this as the puzzle in the Tribune's book section. Is it still there?) It's typically a bit tougher than Bursztyn's puzzle and a bit easier than the NYT Sunday crossword.
If you'd like to do these puzzles online or print them out on white paper (friendlier than newsprint for ink and graphite), check out the links in the sidebar.
Crosswordese 101: Today's featured ORT of crosswordese is EELY. (ORT is an old word for a scrap of food. It's also classic crosswordese.) At 22A, EELY is clued as [Hard to hold]. Sure, eels may squirm out of your grasp if you try to catch one, but when's the last time you referred to anything as being eely? The crossword loves the eel (often clued as a slippery swimmer, sushi fish, snakelike fish, or electrified fish) because E is the commonest vowel and the little EEL boasts two of 'em. There's all sorts of EEL action in crosswords. A successful EELER has EELED, catching even the EELIEST varmint in an EELPOT. (I wish I were kidding. I'm not. These words do show up in crosswords.) A young eel is an ELVER, and the MORAY eel is the scary one with sharp teeth. Two other fishing words, REEL and CREEL, contain the letters of EEL but don't specifically relate to eels.
Honorable mention in the crosswordese department: 72A: Impressionist is an APER. No, nobody uses the word APER outside of crosswords. If you're good at doing impressions of people, I'm fairly certain you don't boast of your aping/apery skills.
(The song is "Saturday Morning" by Eels. If you've seen the crossword documentary Wordplay, you probably remember this song.)
- 17A: Valley girl's "Ick!" (gag me with a spoon)
- 27A: Cliche framed above many a hearth (home sweet home)
- 48A: Spaceflight management center (ground control)
- 64A: Yellow-skinned apple (Golden Delicious)
One of the clues that snagged me was right there at 1A, Blue or brown follower. It took having most of the crossing answers in place to see EYED. Biblical clues are one of my weak spots, so 31D: Land where Moses died was tantamount to Random four-letter place name in the Bible. MOAB is also a place in Utah. And HATLO! My goodness. 27D: "They'll Do It Every Time" cartoonist Jimmy clues HATLO, which is not a name I recognize from anywhere. Oh, here's why: He drew that cartoon from 1929 to 1963, before I was born. The A in HATLO has a tough crossing, too—33A: Finance major's deg. is BBA, or bachelor's of business administration (the baby sister of an MBA). 10D: School play prop is a PAPER HAT, and that just wasn't coming to mind. I think my kid's school shows have involved real hats, not paper facsimiles. I hadn't seen 23A: Donizetti aria "Regnava __ silenzio" (NEL) while I was working this puzzle, and it's just as well. More commonly, NEL's clue evokes the "Volare" lyrics "____ Blu, Dipinto Di Blu."
Other Proper Nouns in Today's Puzzle:
- 14A: City north of Carson City (RENO). I don't happen to know anyone who ever killed a man in Reno to watch him die. Hey, have you heard of the Nevada town called ELY? Watch for it in the puzzle someday.
- 20A: Senator Hatch (ORRIN). Hockey great Bobby ORR, baseball legend Mel OTT, Charlie Chaplin's much-younger wife OONA O'Neill, and baseball pitcher OREL Hershiser are other O names that populate the grid.
- 53A: 007 creator Fleming (IAN). Other noted Ians include actors McKellen (Gandalf!) and Holm and Olympic swimmer Thorpe.
- 60A: Jacket type worn by several Bond villains (NEHRU). Named after early Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who made those collarless jackets known to the wider world.
- 67A: "A cat must have three different names" poet (ELIOT). Of all the things T.S. Eliot wrote, I'd have to say the work that inspired the musical Cats is right up there on the list of things I don't want to read. Give me "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" over that any day.
- 13D: Discman maker (SONY). Did you know SONY bought AIWA? Those two and BOSE are the crossword's predominant four-letter electronics manufacturers.
- 29D: Hard-to-find guy of kids' books (WALDO). Do you get angry at Waldo when you can't find him in the drawing? I kinda do.
- 30D: "Love Story" costar (O'NEAL). That's Ryan O'Neal. His daughter Tatum O'Neal is also an actress. Giant basketball player Shaquille O'Neal has been in movies, but as far as I know he is not part of an acting dynasty.
- 34D: 2008 Libertarian presidential candidate (BARR). I might've known this last fall, but now? I needed the crossings to resurrect his name.
- 41D: Jacques of "Mon Oncle" (TATI). TATI is probably the most common French actor in crosswords.
- 51D: New York tribe (ONEIDA).
Everything Else — 5A: Rubik creation (CUBE); 9A: Dalmatian marks (SPOTS); 15A: Jet-black gem (ONYX); 16A: It's prohibited (TABOO); 21A: Wagon pullers (TEAM); 25A: Storyteller (LIAR); 35A: When repeated twice, "et cetera" (YADA); 36A: Regal home (MANOR); 37A: Latticework piece (LATH); 39A: Fish order (FILET); 42A: Eye drop (TEAR); 43A: Sweater synthetic (ORLON); 45A: Unheeding (DEAF); 47A: "Washboard" muscles (ABS); 52A: Proximate (NEAR); 54A: Eager (AVID); 57A: Realize (REAP); 68A: Savings choices (IRAS); 69A: Give sparingly (DOLE); 70A: Play area? (STAGE); 71A: Voice quality (TONE); 1D: As a result (ERGO); 2D: Century unit (YEAR); 3D: Caltech sr.'s goal, often (ENGR); 4D: Rectangular game piece (DOMINO); 5D: Holy animal? (COW); 6D: Mile or meter (UNIT); 7D: Eight bits (BYTE); 8D: Breathe out (EXHALE); 9D: MA and PA (STS); 11D: Philharmonic reed (OBOE); 12D: Kit thing (TOOL); 18D: Foe (ENEMY); 19D: Yves's girlfriend (AMIE); 24D: Table section (LEAF); 26D: Bank feature (ATM); 28D: Star Wars letters (SDI); 32D: Goofs (ERRS); 33D: Internet opinion piece (BLOG); 38D: Elvis classic (HOUNDDOG); 40D: Tennyson's twilight (EEN); 44D: 22.5 deg. (NNE); 46D: Old French capital? (FRANC); 49D: Put in stitches (DARN); 50D: Recognition (CREDIT); 54D: Grows up (AGES); 55D: Electrical unit (VOLT); 56D: Hip bones (ILIA); 58D: Prefix with sol (AERO); 59D: Blueprint (PLAN); 61D: Slam dunk site (HOOP); 62D: Govern, or word that can follow the first word of the four longest puzzle answers (RULE); 63D: Rehab admission (USER); 65D: When the French fry? (ETE); 66D: Expert ending? (ISE).