THEME: "COM-" GLOM — "COM" is stuck onto the beginnings of familiar phrases, creating wacky new phrases, which are then clued, "?"-style
Seems like kind of a throwaway idea for a constructor of Doug's caliber, but it still resulted in an enjoyable puzzle. None of the wacky phrases did very much for me — the coolest ones were also the ones that felt most forced — COMFORT APACHE (20A: Soothe Geronimo's people) sounds odd to me without the "S" on the end of APACHE, though clearly tribes can be referred to collectively without the "S." For some reason, more than other tribe names, APACHE strikes me as a singular ... like I picture an APACHE — one guy. I realize this is my idiosyncratic feeling about tribe names talking, but for whatever reason, COMFORT APACHE felt slightly off. "COMPLAIN, JANE" (43A: "If Tarzan's bothering you, speak up!") is inspired, but requires an absurd imperative interpretation. Still, as I say, I actually like those two, where COMMEND FENCES (52A: Speak highly of enclosures?) and COMBAT MOBILE (28A: Sherman tank, for one?) leave me cold. Is COMBATMOBILE supposed to be one word? Because a COMBAT MOBILE sound like a weaponized crib toy.
But many of the long Downs make up for the somewhat lackluster Acrosses. My favorite is MS. PACMAN (9D: Derivative '80s game in which one ghost's name was changed from Clyde to Sue), both because of its crazy consonant-heavy opening and because it's an important game in my life, or my sister's life, rather. If "Donkey Kong" was my game (and it was) then MS. PACMAN was my sister's. She owned that thing. We especially liked whenever we went to some new restaurant (usu. pizza parlor) that had the sit-down, table-top versions. Klassy. EVEL is such a common crossword answer, but you hardly ever see the much more colorful KNIEVEL (42D: Either of two notable jumpers). Great clue — EVEL's son ROBBIE is also a daredevil. COLERIDGE looks nice in the grid — coincidentally had a conversation about him yesterday with some grad students (former undergrad students of mine) who were all busily writing their final papers for one of their courses. THE HUB is an "Old" nickname? (10D: Old Boston nickname) Then how'd I get it so easily. It must still have some currency.
Crosswordese 101: ASTER (51D: Autumn blossom) — One of the first five-letter repeaters I committed to permanent memory early on in my crosswording career. Whenever I see one now (I only recently started paying attention to "nature" - on my walks in the woods with wife and dogs - and I see them all the time now), I instinctively think, and probably sometimes say out loud, "Fall bloomer," as that is the clue I most closely associate with the flower.
- 10A: Dessert chain with Waffle Cone Wednesday? (TCBY) — Why did I want IHOP? Maybe the "Waffle" part had me thinking breakfast, briefly.
- 35A: Crow cousin (daw) — Crosswordese 301. If I see this in a puzzle again, I'll write about it.
- 37A: Spice often added to curries (cumin) — Ever since I got back from Costa Rica last month, I can't stop using this spice. It makes beans and rice (and related foodstuffs) awesome.
- 64A: Letters from Plato (etas) — "From?" I get it, it's a Greek letter, but "from Plato" = ??
- 2D: One may precede a blessing (achoo!) — A gimme. Also, a crossword staple.
- 3D: Oldest of the Stooges (Shemp) — Huh. I can't say I've ever thought about their relative ages.
- 8D: Ottawa-based law gp. (RCMP) — That's Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
- 50D: "Thin Ice" star, 1937 (Henie) — The "ice" part was the giveaway. HENIE is 60% vowels and thus crossword gold.
- 56D: She played Emma in "The Avengers" (Uma) — The horrible late-90s "Avengers" movie, not the TV show, obviously. Has UMA been Crosswordese 101 yet? If not ... expect her soon.
Everything Else — 1A: Iraqi seaport (BASRA); 6A: Detriment (HARM); 14A: Pigment of iron oxide (OCHER); 15A: Tolkien brutes (ORCS); 16A: Anorak feature (HOOD); 17A: See-through (SHEER); 18A: Office sub (TEMP); 19A: Lodge group (ELKS); 23A: Infield bounce (HOP); 24A: "___ first!" (YOU); 25A: Wedding setting (CHURCH); 31A: Bygone rulers (TSARS); 34A: Strong wagon (DRAY); 36A: DOJ employee (ATTY.); 39A: Fiend (OGRE); 40A: English site of a royal flush? (LOO); 41A: Hold one's own (COPE); 42A: Massage (KNEAD); 47A: Skillful pass (SPIRAL); 48A: Ocean State sch. (U.R.I.); 49A: Doo-wop syllable (SHA); 56A: River through Kazakhstan (URAL); 58A: Hippie's "Yeah, man!" (I DIG); 59A: Brag (VAUNT); 60A: Star followers (MAGI); 61A: Diamond complement (NINE); 62A: Money with hits (EDDIE); 63A: Top (APEX); 65A: Printer acronym (LASER); 1D: "The Garden of Earthly Delights" painter (BOSCH); 4D: Coral formation (REEF); 5D: Gulches (ARROYOS); 6D: Warm place to chill (HOT TUB); 7D: Subject matter (AREA); 11D: "Kubla Khan" poet (COLERIDGE); 12D: With 22-Down, Asian cabbage (BOK); 13D: Abbr. on a golf tee sign (YDS.); 21D: CD-__ (ROM); 22D: See 12-Down (CHOY); 26D: Bow in pictures (CLARA); 27D: Cut down (HEWED); 28D: Turn on the waterworks (CRY); 29D: Campaign creators (ADMEN); 30D: Half of sex- (TRI); 31D: Easily scratched minerals (TALCS); 32D: Condescend (STOOP); 33D: Era that began with a blast? (ATOMIC AGE); 37D: Montana resource site (COAL MINE); 38D: Press initials (UPI); 39D: Fused (ONE); 41D: Casino delicacy? (CLAM); 44D: Long-winded (PROLIX); 45D: Book that tells the story of Samson (JUDGES); 46D: Strip yip (ARF); 49D: Scoots along, as a cloud (SCUDS); 53D: Make changes to (EDIT); 54D: Ricci of fashion (NINA); 55D: Zilch (NADA); 57D: Good thing to beat (RAP).