THEME: "On the Fly" — Each of eight phrases ends with a word that can be paired with the word fly to make a bug.
Hello again. Orange here, well-rested after a week away from crosswords but tired out from a week of vacationing. This theme couldn't be more timely for me, as my family just visited the Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans this week. Bugs! We observed hundreds of live insects and their non-insect arthropod cousins, saw thousands of mounted specimens (and not just aligned in boring rows, either—picture magnificent swirls of colorful metallic beetles), and sampled some edible mealworms and waxworms. We did not, however, see all the ___flies included in the Jack McInturff crossword. (This is the syndicated Sunday Los Angeles Times puzzle edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis and not the puzzle that is printed in the dead-tree L.A. Times. PuzzleGirl's post on the latter crossword will be up later on Sunday.)
Crosswordese 101: This crossword contains three closely related men's names that are super-common fillers in crosswords. We have 17A: "A Chapter on Ears" essayist, Charles Lamb's pen name ELIA. Then there's the 45A: Bridge expert Culbertson, first name ELY. And ELI is clued as 78A: ABC dramedy "__ Stone." ELIHU Yale, ELIHU Root, ELIAS Howe, and ELIAN Gonzalez are sitting this one out, along with ELENI and ELENA. But
25A: "My Fair Lady" girl, Audrey Hepburn's ELIZA, and ELVIRA, 98A: Horror host dubbed "Mistress of the Dark," stopped by. What the El...?
Any time the answer has four letters and the clue includes the word "essayist," you're looking for this ELIA. Director ELIA Kazan splits the cluing duties with Charles Lamb.
ELY can also be Ron ELY, an actor who played Tarzan some decades back, or the small town of ELY, Nevada.
ABC cancelled Eli Stone a few months ago, so that clue already feels a tad dated. Other popular ELI clue possibilities include Giants quarterback ELI Manning; ELI Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin; actor ELI Wallach; a Biblical judge who was Samuel's teacher; drug company ELI Lilly; and the nickname for a Yale student. Even those crossword constructors who aren't Giants fans are surely psyched that ELI Manning has given new life to a stodgy three-letter answer.
- 21A: Genesis no-no (FORBIDDEN FRUIT)
- 43A: Flower named for a legendary beast (SNAPDRAGON)
- 51A: Fruity spread (APPLE BUTTER)
- 69A: Unstable, metaphorically (BUILT ON SAND)
- 79A: Stylish but simple dress color (BASIC BLACK)
- 101A: 1964 Burt Lancaster thriller (SEVEN DAYS IN MAY)
- 34D: Put away platefuls (ATE LIKE A HORSE)
- 30D: Take some heat (COME UNDER FIRE)
The implied insects are the wee fruit fly, iridescent dragonfly, flitting butterfly, biting sandfly, blood-sucking black fly, short-lived mayfly, biting horsefly, and bioluminescent firefly. Every last one of 'em is an honest-to-goodness real live insect—no baseball fly balls or Levi's button-fly here.
I'm not familiar with the Burt Lancaster movie, but the other theme answers are fairly common. For consistency (always a plus in crossword themes), the ___ fly word (or, in the case of SNAPDRAGON, part of a word) appears at the end of each answer.
Moving beyond the theme and into the nooks and crannies of the puzzle, we find CLEAVER clued as 80D: Chop chopper. Now, if the constructor were in more of a retro pop culture mood, this might've referenced the classic sitcom Leave It to Beaver. For your viewing enjoyment, here's a parody of that show from MadTV, with the band Blink-182 taking the place of Beaver:
What else is there? Why, there's all this:
- 5A: "For Whom the Bell Tolls" actor Tamiroff (AKIM). Who is this guy? He was in the original 1960 Ocean's Eleven, and he inspired the Boris Badenov character (the monochromatic toon on the left) in Rocky and Bullwinkle.
- 31A: Former French coin (ECU). This one's sneaky because sometimes the old French coin they're looking for is the SOU.
- 38A: Maine campus town (ORONO). Famous mainly for its appearances in crosswords, as far as I know. Do you know anyone who went to college in Orono?
- 40A: From __: slight progress (ATOB). Four letters, three words: A TO B. Sneaky, and it throws people off. Also be on the lookout for A TO Z.
- 42A: Putting concession (GIMME). In golf, if your ball's close enough to the hole, your opponents may say it's a GIMME and give you credit for sinking the ball without making you actually hit the ball.
- 75A: Mediation agcy. (NLRB). This is the National Labor Relations Board, which mediates between unions and employers.
- 76A: Slippery fish (EELS). The one in the photo is the California moray EEL at the Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans.
- 6D: Invasive Asian vine (KUDZU). Tough to get rid of, but fun to say.
- 9D: Home of the volcano Chimborazo (ECUADOR). Neither this volcano nor this country get much play in crosswords.
- 38D: Scott Turow memoir (ONEL). That's One L, Turow's book about his first year of law school.
- 55D: Savanna grazer (ELAND). Surely the favorite African mammal of the ELI, ELIA, ELY contingent.
- 63D: Lemon of the '50s (EDSEL). When life gives you Edsels, make Edsel ade.
- 73D: "Roman Holiday" scooter (VESPA). Another Audrey Hepburn reference! Yeah, two is plenty.
- 75D: LeBron James, e.g. (NBASTAR). I'm fond of these two-word answers that include a sports league or division. NBA STAR, NHL TEAM, NFC EAST, AL WEST, etc.
- 102D: Capital of Denmark? (DEE). As in the letter D, the capital letter in the word Denmark.
Everything Else — 1A: Find out (HEAR); 9A: Early bird? (EGG); 12A: Ben Franklin's belief (DEISM); 18A: Sharp dresser (DUDE); 19A: Lot, often (ACRE); 20A: Golfing countryman of Seve (SERGIO); 24A: Stat (PRONTO); 26A: Bars bought dry (SOAPS); 27A: "Madama Butterfly" accessory (OBI); 28A: VCR button (REC); 32A: Exercise done on a bench? (ETUDE); 33A: Luggage checker (SKYCAP); 36A: Make sacred using oil (ANOINT); 39A: Discoverer's cry (AHA); 46A: Gets older (AGES); 47A: Takes to court (SUES); 48A: Run away (FLEE); 49A: Skirt feature (SLIT); 50A: Dallas sch. (SMU); 55A: A-list (ELITE); 56A: Two-time Golden Lion winner (ANGLEE); 58A: Scrub the launch (ABORT); 59A: Quenches (SLAKES); 60A: Hinder (DETER); 61A: Old Greek assembly area (AGORA); 62A: Perform using blades (SKATE); 63A: Made level (EVENED); 65A: Trial answers (PLEAS); 66A: Musical liability (TINEAR); 68A: More calamitous (DIRER); 72A: Carpooler's __ lane (HOV); 74A: Flabby (SOFT); 77A: Studio stance (POSE); 83A: Long-eared bounders (HARES); 84A: Old Italian bread (LIRA); 86A: Enzyme suffix (ASE); 87A: Perjurers (LIARS); 88A: Assembles (SETSUP); 89A: Last to come out (NEWEST); 91A: Flip call (HEADS); 92A: "... the grace of God __" (GOI); 93A: Superfund enforcer: Abbr. (EPA); 94A: Word heard before hiking? (HUT); 95A: "__ porridge hot ..." (PEASE); 96A: Steinbeck family (JOADS); 106A: Gob (SAILOR); 107A: Seine sights (ILES); 108A: Part of Q.E.D. (ERAT); 109A: Helper (AIDE); 110A: They take a while to read (TOMES); 111A: Old map letters (SSR); 112A: Old Sinclair rival (ESSO); 113A: Radiance (GLOW); 1D: Exec often seen in his PJs (HEF); 2D: Band with the 1977 album "Out of the Blue" (ELO); 3D: Get out in the open (AIR); 4D: Broccoli __ (RABE); 5D: Nut (ADDICT); 7D: It can be half-baked (IDEA); 8D: Fellows (MEN); 10D: Grouse (GRIPE); 11D: Laughs at, perhaps (GETS); 12D: Rounded felt hat (DERBY); 13D: Symphony that includes a funeral march (EROICA); 14D: Starter: Abbr. (IGN); 15D: Watch the kids (SIT); 16D: Lea sound (MOO); 19D: In the area (AROUND); 20D: Pacific Northwest metropolis (SPOKANE); 22D: Graff of "Mr. Belvedere" (ILENE); 23D: SLR setting (FSTOP); 28D: Indian tunes (RAGAS); 29D: Problem (ENIGMA); 32D: Wipe out (ERASE); 33D: Smith, at times (SHOER); 35D: Courteous (POLITE); 37D: Places to see smileys, briefly (IMS); 39D: Lace end (AGLET); 41D: Memory units (BYTES); 43D: Very, in slang (SUPER); 44D: Media workers' org. (AFTRA); 47D: Celerity (SPEED); 49D: Roofing material (SLATE); 51D: Modify (ALTER); 52D: Bread that's boiled before it's baked (BAGEL); 53D: Lusitania sinker (UBOAT); 54D: Trunk (TORSO); 57D: "The Maids" playwright (GENET); 59D: __ game: golf competition (SKINS); 61D: Defendant's need (ALIBI); 62D: Broccoli part (STALK); 64D: Concertmaster's instrument (VIOLIN); 65D: Race prize (PURSE); 67D: Rebelled (ROSEUP); 69D: Big blowout (BLAST); 70D: Creeps up on (NEARS); 71D: Min. parts (SECS); 77D: Bit of butter (PAT); 81D: Reasons for recusal (BIASES); 82D: Burdened (LADEN); 83D: Fictional Swiss miss (HEIDI); 85D: For a little bit (AWHILE); 88D: In order that one might (SOASTO); 90D: Cypriot currency since 2008 (EUROS); 91D: Cads (HEELS); 92D: "The Nude Maja" and "The Clothed Maja" (GOYAS); 95D: Omega preceders (PSIS); 96D: Penny holders (JARS); 97D: Minor setback (SNAG); 98D: Ballpark fig. (EST); 99D: Mekong River native (LAO); 100D: Pep (VIM); 103D: "Cool" amount (MIL); 104D: Hubbub (ADO); 105D: Archery wood (YEW).