THEME: None — Saturdays are made for themeless crosswords
This puzzle took me less time to finish than the Thursday and Friday L.A. Times puzzles did. Enjoy the break, because in a few more weeks the Saturday crossword is likely to return to its usual difficulty level. If that frightens you, do not worry! We will be here to coach you through it. Remember: Looking up the answers is cheating only if you're being graded on it. Doing a crossword for fun? Then by all means, Google your heart out when you're stuck. You'll expand your knowledge base, and that's always a good thing.
If you never studied any of the Romance languages, you might have found this puzzle uncommonly challenging. I took some French and have been studying the crosswordese language for years. We'll get to the language lowdown in a minute. But first, let's focus on a little crosswordese.
20D: Incessantly is the clue for NO END.
Crosswords have muddled two similar phrases in my head. There's NO END, which is an idiom used to mean a large number, as in "There is no end of crosswordese out there," or the adverb "immensely," as in "She's a riot—she amuses me no end." And then there's the entirely different phrase ON END, which dates back to the 1300s (!) and means "seemingly without end." The phrase can also be part of "standing on end."
I see NOEND and ONEND's halves smushed together in the grid so much that the phrases have turned meaningless there. Same as ATE AT, meaning "bothered"—who can see ATEAT and not wonder what sort of clue A TEAT might have?
Here are the most frequent clues for our near-twins:
- NO END means Interminably, Without letup, Incessantly, or Very much.
- ON END is clued most often as Upright, with the "standing on end" meaning. The "without end" breed of clues includes Continuously, Without a break, Without letup, Without interruption, Ceaselessly, and Incessantly.
- 8D: "Outside the box" solutions (EXTREME MEASURES). This one runs the full length down the center.
- 37A: "Hawaii Five-O" order (BOOK 'EM DANNO). This criss-crosses 8D in the middle.
- 12D: Post-Katrina retail sign, perhaps (YES WE'RE OPEN). Hey! I'm heading to New Orleans on Sunday.
- 24D: Familiar red-white-and-blue symbol (BARBER'S POLE).
As mentioned above, there's definitely a strong Romance language vibe in this puzzle. Possibly more than I've ever seen in a single American crossword.
From French, we get two names and four words:
- 15A: French town at the foot of Mont Blanc (CHAMONIX).
- 18A: Ltr. opener (MESSRS). That's the abbreviated plural of "monsieur," French for "mister." I don't know about you, but I don't write a lot of letters to groups of men.
- 28A: Like (A LA). This one's common in crosswords. The best usage, of course, is by Sesame Street's Amazing Mumford, whose catchphrase is "A la peanut butter sandwiches!" Alas, this A LA rarely gets any play in crosswords.
- 22D: __-relief (BAS).
- 31D: French-Swiss author Madame de __ (STAEL).
- 58D: Debussy subject (MER). Debussy composed La Mer, or The Sea. This comes up often in the puzzle.
- 32A: Gold medals, in Guadalajara (OROS).
- 23D: Arena cheer (OLE). OLE is popular in crosswords. The more enthusiastic OLE OLE also gets some play. Hardly ever do we see the soccer cheer "OLE, OLE OLE OLE." I never mind seeing the OLEs, but I could do without OLEO.
- 29D: Mexico's San Juan and Conchos, e.g. (RIOS). RIOS are rivers.
- 26A: Extended operatic solo (SCENA).
- 33A: Spaghetti western director Leone (SERGIO). He directed some of those classic Clint Eastwood movies.
- 61D: Auto racer Fabi (TEO). Teo Fabi drove fast cars in Formula One races and the Indy 500.
Latin also provides plenty of legalese phrases, such as 36D: Concerning (IN RE). That one is also memoese now. 27D: Latin horn (CORNU) wasn't ringing any bells for me, but then I looked up CORNU in the dictionary. The upper left and right "horns" of the uterus are called cornua (plural of cornu), and assorted horn-shaped bits of bone, cartilage, and brain also carry the CORNU name. Did ancient Roman marching bands play the cornu? I have no idea. (The picture is from Craftster.org and it's a cross-stitch pattern.)
My favorite clue today is 29A: Wear and tear, e.g. (RHYMES). I love this sort of trickiness. Sure, it looks like we're talking about erosion, corrosion, rust, and dinginess, but instead we need to kick it super-literal here. The words "wear" and "tear" rhyme with one another. Similar clues may give a pair of words that are SYNonyms rather than rhymes, so be ready.
Pop culture bullets:
- 1A: Spider-Man's girl (MARY JANE). What a terrific way to start off at 1-Across. A crisp and zippy 1-Across is always welcome—especially when you can answer the clue without needing a zillion crossings. I prefer Tom Petty's "Last Dance with Mary Jane" to Spidey's beloved.
- 9A: "Candle in the Wind" dedicatee (LADY DI). The Elton John song.
- 19A: "Flowers for __": Daniel Keyes sci-fi classic (ALGERNON). I read the book in high school and have never seen the Cliff Robertson movie, Charly.
- 50A: CBS forensic drama (CSI).
- 2D: Philip of "Kung Fu" (AHN).
- 54D: __-1: "Ghostbusters" vehicle (ECTO).
Everything Else — 16A: "That was exhausting!" (IMBEAT); 17A: Red-handed (INTHEACT); 21A: Minute (WEE); 22A: Drifts on waves (BOBS); 25A: Feline sign (LEO); 35A: Completeness (ENTIRETY); 39A: Hedonist's pursuit (PLEASURE); 41A: Bursts (ERUPTS); 44A: U. of Maryland athlete (TERP); 45A: One of numerous childhood spots? (MEASLE); 47A: Goddess of the dawn (EOS); 48A: Military operations centers (BASES); 51A: Prelude to a deal (ANTE); 52A: Not in favor: Abbr. (OPP); 53A: Peevish (PETULANT); 57A: Kind of number or clock (ATOMIC); 59A: Communicate well with (RELATETO); 63A: Ability (TALENT); 64A: Competitor's payment (ENTRYFEE); 65A: Music provider (STEREO); 66A: Hangs around to see (STAYSFOR); 3D: Stoolie (RAT); 4D: Jewish Community Center gps. (YMHAS); 5D: One of the Coen brothers (JOEL); 6D: "I hate to be __, but ...": complaint opening (ANAG); 7D: With grace (NICELY); 9D: Prom coach (LIMO); 10D: Words of agreement (AMENS); 11D: Sound units, briefly (DBS); 13D: Are afraid to (DARENOT); 14D: "Piece of cake!" (ITSEASY); 30D: Nonsense (HOKUM); 34D: Lose it (GOAPE); 38D: Put up (ERECT); 39D: Mosquito Fleet craft (PTBOATS); 40D: Was enthusiastic about (LEAPTAT); 42D: Moppet (TOT); 43D: Vane dir. (SSE); 46D: Like some partners (SILENT); 49D: Gumption (SPINE); 51D: Some partners: Abbr. (ATTYS); 55D: Resort near Snowbird (ALTA); 56D: Not (NARY); 60D: Reason for a repeat? (EFF); 62D: Anthem preposition (OER).