Hello again, fans of the L.A. Times crossword puzzle! Orange here. If you're in the Chicago area, come to this Saturday's Marbles Amateur Crossword Tournament at Marbles: The Brain Store. I'll be there as a tournament judge and will sign any copies of my book, How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, that should be fortunate enough to find buyers. Hope to see a few of you there! There's not a ton of difference between the NYT and the L.A. Times crosswords, so the book is relevant even if this here puzzle is the one you go steady with. Okay, this concludes the event- and book-plugging portion of our broadcast. Stay tuned for crosswords...now.
Crosswordese 101: Remember Dave Letterman's poorly received turn as host of the Oscars? The "Uma, Oprah. Oprah, Uma" bit? Today's 32D: Chaplin's last wife (OONA) would have fit right in with them. OONA was the daughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill. When she was just 17, she began dating Charlie Chaplin, 36 years her senior. They wed and had eight children together, one of them actress Geraldine Chaplin. Until today, I don't think I'd ever seen a picture of her, though I've seen her name in crosswords for eons. If the name is unfamiliar to you, don't fret! Soon enough, you will have known her for eons through crosswords, too.
- 16A: Step in a pizza recipe? (MOMENT OF OLIVES). Mount of Olives is a biblical place and a place in Jerusalem. The concept of a MOMENT OF OLIVES is a goofy one. Goofy is good in crosswords.
- 20A: Simpson dad with a dozen donuts? (HAPPY HOMER). Who doesn't appreciate happy hour?
- 35A: Hook's mate in his formative years? (A BOY NAMED SMEE). This plays on the Johnny Cash song by poet Shel Silverstein "A Boy Named Sue." (Cash video below.) Smee is the name of Captain Hook's first mate.
- 49A: Headline about carpentry work for a new financial institution? (BANK FRAMED). Bank fraud...nope, nothing of topical interest there.
- 56A: Classic breakup line, and a hint to the formation of this puzzle's theme answers (IT'S NOT YOU, IT'S ME).
I took a wrong turn right at 1D: One in Tarzan's family tree? (SIMIAN). I started out with APEMAN. Inaccurate and just plain wrong! Tarzan's birth family was human. His adoptive family were apes. There were no apemen.
For 24A: Floor covering (WAX), I contemplated RUG. Nope.
I had no idea what to put for 41A: Paul who played the principal in "The Breakfast Club". The late actor's last name is GLEASON. You know what this clue tells me? That constructor Daniel Finan is probably fairly close in age to me and came of age in the John Hughes movie era. Jackie Gleason is left on the cutting room floor this time.
Clues from the animal kingdom: Swimming STROKES are 1A: Butterfly units? and 17D: Dogs in shoes? are FEET.
Duplications of words are supposed to be taboo in crosswords. Two forms of the same verb appear in 55A: "Must've been something __" (IATE) and 6D: Satisfy the munchies (EAT). You know what's being scarfed down, don't you? It's QUICHE, 61A: Brunch fare. I often don't notice such duplications while I'm doing a puzzle, but if I don't mention it here, someone is sure to kvetch about it in the comments. Ditto for the number of black squares (40) in the grid. Someone will cry "inelegance" because there shouldn't be more than 38 black squares. Mind you, the stated limit for an L.A. Times puzzle is 43 black squares. Rarely will the count go that high, but editor Rich Norris can tolerate it if the puzzle warrants it.
An Olio of Other Answers:
- 32A: Milo of "Barbarella" (O'SHEA). Milo O'Shea backed up Jane Fonda's Barbarella.
- 39A: Pooh pooh-bah (MILNE). A.A. Milne wrote the Winnie the Pooh stories. Pooh-bah ranks right up there with pasha in my list of Words I Like.
- 62A: Actor whose birth name was Aristoteles (SAVALAS). Telly Savalas played Kojak in the '70s. Bald + lollipop = timeless classic. Try that look out yourself and you will see.
- 4D: Cockney anticipation? (OPE). That's HOPE without the H, as pronounced by Cockney folk.
- 11D: Dynamo (LIVE WIRE). Don't touch one, okay? You could get electrocuted.
- 38D: German town (DORF). The German word for a bigger town is Stadt.
- 42D: __ dictum: passing remark (OBITER) is Latin. Obiter dictum is legalese meaning "a judge's incidental expression of opinion, not essential to the decision and not establishing precedent." Do we have any Latin scholars out there who can shed light on whether this is etymologically related to "obituary"?