THEME: "Breaking Up Is Not So Hard To Do After All"— Three phrases contain the hidden word UP, broken in half across words
There've been plenty of crossword themes involving hidden words split among the words in a phrase, but how many of them mandate phrases that include words ending in U? Not so many. And how often is the first square in the puzzle filled with a V? Not much of the time, so crossing VALID (1A: Still in force) with VAMP (1D: Seductress) felt fresh. The theme contains just two 10's and two 13's, leaving wiggle room for Bonnie to include a cool dozen 7- and 8-letter answers in the fill.
You know what happened to this constructor one time? Even though she includes that middle initial in her byline to help set herself apart from singer Bobbie Gentry, an NYT crossword credited Bonnie as Bobbie. Here's the other Ms. Gentry singing "Ody to Billy Joe":
Crosswordese 101: Sure, ERTÉ the Harper's Bazaar artist (19A) is in the puzzle, but Rex covered him on April 27. So we move on to REA (55D: Stephen of "Citizen X). Stephen REA first became semi-famous among Americans when he was in The Crying Game. The Irish actor's other clueable movies include V for Vendetta, Michael Collins, Romeo and Me, Still Crazy, and In Dreams. Given the L.A. Times's Hollywood slant, it seems that REA almost always gets clued with actor Stephen, but N.Y. Times clues for REA have mentioned the phrase mens rea (criminal intent), New Yorker cartoonist Rea Irvin, and CNN's Rea Blakey.
- 17A: Pancake-wrapped Chinese dish is MOO SHU PORK.
- 23A: More food. Peppered entree is STEAK AU POIVRE. It was way too short, but I still wanted STEAK DIANE here. (DIANE, it turns out, was lurking below as 59A: "Cheers" waitress.)
- 46A: Judge's query after charges are read clues "HOW DO YOU PLEAD?" This has legal echoes with two other answers: 6A: Serve with a summons (CITE) and 14A: O'Connor's successor (ALITO).
- 54A: BREAKING UP is clued with 54A: Disbanding, and a literal hint to the hidden theme in 17-, 23- and 46-Across.
- 15A: Partly revitalized sea (ARAL). Hey! It's coming back! After all these years of "shrinking sea" clues, the Aral Sea (an inland sea) is partly revitalized.
- 29A: Knotty and twisted (GNARLED). Gotta love a silent G.
- 3D: Pride's quarters (LIONS DEN).
- 6D: "RUR" playwright (CAPEK). Karel Čapek was a Czech writer, and R.U.R. is short for "Rossum's Universal Robots." Čapek coined the word "robot."
- 12D: Old explosive device (PETARD). I beseech you, do not get hoist by your own petard.
- 24D: Suffers humiliation (EATS CROW). Great colloquial answer here.