Theme: Altered States — Theme clues are nicknames of five different U.S. states, which are to be understood literally ("state" in each clue referring to a "state of being" and not a geopolitical entity)
This may be the first time I've seen "?" clues used to indicate literalness and not wackiness. Very clever reversal of custom. Really enjoyed this original theme, and the fact that even though all the answers are abstract nouns, none of them share common nominalizing endings. You've got -ISM, -ACY, -NESS, -ENCE, and -ITY. Such non-repetition seems irrelevant to you, you say? Perhaps. But whether intended or not, it's indicative to me of a constructor who is conscious not just of mechanics (getting the words to fit and by symmetrical) but of aesthetics. Abstract nouns can be quite dull, but the way Patrick varies those endings while also getting in a little alliteration up top (SKEPTICISM and SUPREMACY) and down low (DILIGENCE and DURABILITY) really adds a level of elegant craftsmanship to an otherwise simply clever puzzle.
- 18A: "Show me" state? (SKEPTICISM) — For whatever reason (perhaps because I hadn't fully grasped the theme yet) I tripped all over myself in the areas surrounding SKEPTICISM. Had the SK-P part but was looking for some phrase, possibly involving SKIP. If I'd gotten that "E" from ALE (6D: See 44-Across), all would have been clear, but I Hate being asked to "See some other clue" and so I generally don't. In the NE, though I know all those words, I couldn't make them roll over on my first pass. Problem started with LAT for PEC (9D: Push-up muscle), and just got worse from there.
- 24A: Empire state? (SUPREMACY)
- 37A: Volunteer state? (WILLINGNESS)
- 53A: Beehive state? (DILIGENCE) — This one threw me, first because I don't think of bees as possessing a particular quality beyond BUSYNESS, and second because I'd already seen bees in the grid at APIARIES (10D: They're abuzz with activity), and wondered whether there was some bee-like subtheme I'd missed.
- 59A: Granite state? (DURABILITY)
This puzzle took me nearly 5 minutes — about right, I guess, for a Wednesday, but a good 45 seconds longer than the NYT took me today. Usually, I find the LAT slightly easier, but today I got hung up, however briefly, in many places. The aforementioned NE, of course, but then there was LESAGE, which gummed up my whole SE until the very end (36D: "Gil Blas" novelist). I've seen "Gil Blas" and LESAGE before, but I can Never remember LESAGE's name. DE SADE gets in the way, I think. Failure to drudge up LESAGE meant that I couldn't sneak into the SE and had to jump to 63A: Chairlift predecessor, at many resorts (T-BAR) to get any traction in there. Other sticking points: ADELE H, which is an answer that I frankly hate (45D: "The Story of _____": 1975 Isabelle Adjani film). A two-word partial from a 30+-year-old French film no one under 45 will have seen let alone heard of? Blecch. Adjani did get an Oscar nomination for it, but still, its fame level is quite low. Thankfully, all the crosses were fair, so it was ultimately gettable. Then there was WENT FREE (37D: Was released), which for some reason feels slightly OFF (55A: Not working) to me. Btw, "off" is an important part of the clue at 68A: Turns (off) (shuts). With so many possible clues for SHUTS, that's an unfortunate mistake. In general, except for articles like "A" and "THE," words in grid should not be repeated anywhere in clues.
- 1A: Summon the genie (rub) — Is this a euphemism for masturbation? Because it sounds like a euphemism for masturbation.
- 13A: Greek goddess of discord (Eris) — Could easily have been my Crosswordese 101 word. Not as common as EOS, say, but up there with the more common Greek goddesses.
- 56A: Instrument sometimes made from koa wood (uke) — Another supercommon bit of fill. Hawaii is full of them.
- 2D: First planet discovered using a telescope (Uranus) — Improbably, this word is in the NYT puzzle today too.
- 4D: Casey who provided Shaggy's voice in TV's "Scooby-Doo" (Kasem) — Man, he was an important part of my childhood. That voice ... here's a song from the era when I listened to his Top 40 countdown All The Time.
- 5D: Bugling grazer (elk) — Why did I want GNU?
- 7D: Common HMO payments (co-pays) — Interesting. Can't recall ever having seen this very common term in a puzzle.
- 12D: Luthor and Brainiac, to Superman (nemeses) — Word that finally broke open the NE. I love comics.
- 39D: One who may converse in Erse (Gael) — A Gaelic-speaker. GAELic. OK, I just got that connection. I'm not kidding. Just now. HA ha. Like the ERSE in "converse" here. GAEL and GAUL are easily confused. The latter refers to an inhabitant of ancient France.
- 52D: Dartboard setting (pub) — Me: "Dartboards have settings? Like ... high? low? warm?"
- 57D: Sleeping Beauty awakener (kiss) — I wrote KING. Stupid.
- 61D: Debtor's pledge (I.O.U.) — Again, don't like this because DEBTS (47D: Collection agency concerns) is already in the grid. Attention must be paid ... to cluing. TUT, I say (62D: Disapproving word).
Everything Else — 1A: Summon the genie (RUB); 4A: Stacy who played Mike Hammer (KEACH); 9A: Fischer man? (PAWN); 13A: Greek goddess of discord (ERIS); 15A: Parcel out (ALLOT); 16A: Pentathlon event (ÉPÉE); 17A: Almanac tidbit (FACT); 18A: "Show me" state? (SKEPTICISM); 20A: Anxious feeling (UNEASE); 22A: Car loan letters (APR); 23A: Lunched or brunched (ATE); 24A: Empire state? (SUPREMACY); 27A: Painful areas (SORES); 29A: City near Dusseldorf (ESSEN); 30A: Bringing up the rear (LAST); 32A: A unicycle has one (TIRE); 33A: Optimist's credo (ICAN); 35A: "Men in Black" extras (ALIENS); 37A: Volunteer state? (WILLINGNESS); 40A: Broadway opening? (SCENEI); 42A: Cork sources (OAKS); 43A: Oodles (TONS); 44A: With 6-Down, it's "bitter" in England (PALE); 46A: Francisco's farewell (ADIOS); 51A: Leading the pack (ONTOP); 53A: Beehive state? (DILIGENCE); 55A: Not working (OFF); 56A: Instrument sometimes made from koa wood (UKE); 58A: Campaign contest (DEBATE); 59A: Granite state? (DURABILITY); 63A: Chairlift predecessor, at many resorts (TBAR); 64A: Netizen, e.g. (USER); 65A: East Asian capital (SEOUL); 66A: Trig ratio (SINE); 67A: "Sneaked" look (PEEK); 68A: Turns (off) (SHUTS); 69A: Media mogul Turner (TED); 1D: Scow load (REFUSE); 2D: First planet discovered using a telescope (URANUS); 3D: Weightlifter's pride (BICEPS); 4D: Casey who provided Shaggy's voice in TV's "Scooby-Doo" (KASEM); 5D: Bugling grazer (ELK); 6D: See 44-Across (ALE); 7D: Common HMO requirements (COPAYS); 8D: URL starter (HTTP); 9D: Push-up muscle (PEC); 10D: They're abuzz with activity (APIARIES); 11D: Gene Autry film (WESTERN); 12D: Luthor and Brainiac, to Superman (NEMESES); 14D: Unsettling look (STARE); 19D: Treasury Dept. arm (IRS); 21D: Declining from old age (SENILE); 25D: Jai __ (ALAI); 26D: Sicilian pastry (CANNOLI); 28D: Elevator man (OTIS); 31D: Gas holder (TANK); 34D: Movie excerpt (CLIP); 36D: "Gil Blas" novelist (LESAGE); 37D: Was released (WENTFREE); 38D: Not __ many words (INSO); 39D: One who may converse in Erse (GAEL); 40D: Failed to meet as planned (STOODUP); 41D: Befuddle (CONFUSE); 45D: "The Story of __": 1975 Isabelle Adjani film (ADELEH); 47D: Collection agency concerns (DEBTS); 48D: "It won't be long" (INABIT); 49D: Gas rating (OCTANE); 50D: Get riled (SEERED); 52D: Dartboard setting (PUB); 54D: Pastoral poems (IDYLS); 57D: Sleeping Beauty awakener (KISS); 60D: Scriptural ship (ARK); 61D: Debtor's pledge (IOU); 62D: Disapproving word (TUT).