THEME: The Saturday puzzle is themeless—the game is decoding tougher clues and figuring out a slew of longer words and phrases.
They're not theme answers, but the three 15-letter answers are all things someone might say in colloquial English:
- 17A: "Maybe I can help?" is what someone might be getting at if they asked "WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?"
- 37A: "Now we're getting somewhere" clues "THAT'S MORE LIKE IT."
- 56A: One Statement of intolerance is "I WON'T STAND FOR IT."
Crosswordese 101: Doesn't ORT sound like the bastard child of baseball's Mel OTT (47D: Six-time N.L. home run champ) and hockey legend Bobby ORR? It's not. It's an archaic word that's been around since the days of Middle English and it means a food scrap. Here, it's clued as 33D: Boxer's scrap, meaning a scrap for a dog such as a boxer. You know why I'm so messed up? It's from an early diet of crosswords during my formative years. I even used the word orts in a high school term paper about medieval dining customs, and I thought the teacher was an idiot for marking the word "?" But how many people who (a) don't do crosswords and (b) aren't medievalists know what ORT means? Maybe not so many. But it remains my favorite bit of old-school crosswordese.
Which clues and answers did I like most? These ones:
I was less fond of these:
- 20A: Common opening (DEAR SIRS). All right, who's still addressing letters this way? I suppose one might be writing to the College of Cardinals or the players for the Chicago Cubs but really, how many letters are being sent somewhere where there are only "sirs"?
- 4D: Major followers? (-ETTES). Nobody likes a plural of a suffix.
- Burrowing rabbitlike mammal (PIKA). It's certainly not the most familiar of Western U.S. mammals, but:: so cute! I just learned something from the Wikipedia article on pikas: Like rabbits, after eating they initially produce soft green feces, which they eat again to extract further nutrition, before producing the final, solid, fecal pellets. "Uh, you gonna eat that?"
Everything Else — 1A: Begins energetically (WADES IN); 8A: Went up (SCALED); 14A: "Be right there!" ("WAIT A SEC!"); 16A: Boom (THRIVE); 19A: Philippine bread (PESO); 21A: French possessive (SES); 22A: Add more brown to, say (REDYE); 24A: Where the 'eart is? ('OME); 31A: Removed, in a way (SCRAPED OFF); 36A: Jobs for underwriters, briefly (IPOS); 39A: Farm drier (OAST); 40A: Soft drink order (EXTRA-LARGE); 44A: Solution: Abbr. (ANS.); 45A: Levi's "Christ Stopped at __" (EBOLI); 49A: Suffix with amyl (-ASE); 50A: Try to get in the running (NOMINATE); 54A: "Thanks, __": "Are you hungry?" response (I ATE); 60A: Decide is best (SEE FIT); 62A: Chant (INTONE); 63A: Words from one closing a door, perhaps (TOO LATE); 1D: Internet abbr. (WWW); 2D: "That's the spot!" ("AAH!"); 3D: More frequent changes reduce its likelihood (DIAPER RASH); 5D: Lip (SASS); 6D: Comparison words (IS TO); 7D: Book before Esth. (NEH.); 8D: Prospective adoptee (STRAY); 9D: Tasks (CHORES); 10D: Wall St. hedgers (ARBS); 11D: 1953 Caron film (LILI); 12D: Of all time (EVER); 13D: Party people: Abbr. (DEMS); 15D: Give up (CEDE); 18D: Walker, briefly (PED); 21D: For example (SUCH AS); 22D: Electron transfer process, often (REDOX); 23D: Photo setting (F-STOP); 24D: Photo finishes? (OPS); 25D: Kid's enthusiastic "I do!" ("ME! ME!"); 28D: Style of Mozart's "Idomeneo" (OPERASERIA); 30D: Colorado's __ Park (ESTES); 32D: Kofi __ Annan (ATTA); 34D: Atom-splitting Nobelist (FERMI); 35D: Linen source (FLAX); 38D: Bugged? (ILL); 42D: Entered (WENT IN); 46D: Moisten (BASTE); 48D: Wife of Jacob (LEAH); 49D: Lagoon border (ATOLL); 50D: Not final, in law (NISI); 52D: Bubbly brand (MOET); 53D: Dope (INFO); 54D: Personal: Pref. (IDIO-); 57D: Washington MLBer (NAT); 58D: Money pd. for use of money (INT.); 59D: Athletic supporter? (TEE).