THEME: Quotation puzzle: "I NEVER HATED A MAN (17A) / ENOUGH TO GIVE HIM (41A) / HIS DIAMONDS BACK (64A)" — ZSA ZSA Gabor (72A: Speaker of the quote, familiarly)
Well, these puzzles are certainly being retooled for the syndication crowd, who are apparently demanding easier puzzles. The quality of the puzzles remain quite sound, but the difficulty level has plummeted. I don't think this is a bad thing — there is a place in the world for good, solid puzzles that most everyone (who likes puzzles) can do. I just have to get used to going through a Friday puzzle in Tuesday time, I guess. A quotation puzzle in particular should have given me at least a bit of a struggle (especially as I'd never heard the quotation before), but there were really only a couple of bumpy spots on this road. The ease with which I cut through this one probably has a lot to do with solving puzzles all the time, as certain words have become gimmes for me that maybe aren't gimmes for everyone. This is especially true of the short proper nouns, like Mort SAHL, Sebastian COE, Don Juan's mom INEZ, EZIO Pinza, James AGEE, etc. These folks are all old friends.
Word of the Day: AGAR (12D: Bio lab gel) — often clued as a "thickening agent" (its role in many food products), this word can be found growing like a weed throughout the crossword grids of North America. Change the "G" to an "L" and you get a "banned orchard spray." Reverse the final two letters and you get the site of the Taj Mahal.
I love the Buck Rogers futuristic quality of the puzzle, with SPACE AGE (10D: Period that started with Sputnik) crossing PHASER (30A: "Star Trek" weapon) crossing UPLINKS (27D: Earth-to-satellite connections) — very nice little outer space subtheme there. The two places in the puzzle that gave me a little trouble were the center and the far south. In the center, the trouble was almost entirely the result of ACETAL (37A: Alcohol-based solvent), which I didn't know and which looks like a bunch of other ACET-y words I've seen before. In the south, I misspelled INEZ as INES and had FEN for SEA (67D: Wet expanse). This left me with the speaker of the quotation being ZSASSN! (adding to the outer space feel of the puzzle). In the end, very easy to fix.
- 1A: Tolkien's Legolas, e.g. (ELF) — 3-ltr words in the Tolkienverse are ORC or ENT. Except when they are ELF.
- 23A: 1519 Yucatan arrival (CORTEZ) — had the first three letters in place, so no problem; otherwise I might have struggled a bit. CORTEZ game me the "Z" in ZACHARY (25D: Millard's predecessor), which otherwise would not have come to me easily.
- 55D: Bluegrass great Lester (FLATT) — my dad can play some bluegrass banjo, so I've known who FLATT & Scruggs are for years...
Enjoy your weekend.
[Follow Rex Parker, Puzzle Girl, and Orange on Twitter]
Everything Else — 1A: Tolkien's Legolas, e.g. (ELF); 4A: Agree (CONCUR); 10A: Striker's bane (SCAB); 14A: Nothing (NIL); 15A: How some exams are taken (ORALLY); 16A: __ stick (POGO); 17A: Start of a quote (I NEVER HATED A MAN); 20A: Shivering fit (AGUE); 21A: State until 1991: Abbr. (SSR); 22A: Part of a woodlands stash (ACORN); 23A: 1519 Yucat·n arrival (CORTEZ); 26A: Remote function (PAUSE); 28A: "Rubáiyát" poet (OMAR); 30A: "Star Trek" weapon (PHASER); 34A: Apple pie go-with? (MOM); 37A: Alcohol-based solvent (ACETAL); 40A: Palestinian city (GAZA); 41A: Quote, part 2 (ENOUGH TO GIVE HIM); 44A: Ooze (SEEP); 45A: Arrival (ADVENT); 46A: Chop off (LOP); 47A: Plane site (HANGAR); 49A: Barely made, with "out" (EKED); 51A: Rolls partner (ROYCE); 54A: Messy scenarios (SNAFUS); 58A: Go furtively (SNEAK); 61A: Band from the East? (OBI); 63A: Radius neighbor (ULNA); 64A: End of the quote (HIS DIAMONDS BACK); 68A: Mont Blanc, par exemple (ALPE); 69A: Takeout order? (DELETE); 70A: __ Bo (TAE); 71A: Make (one's way) (WEND); 72A: Speaker of the quote, familiarly (ZSA ZSA); 73A: Scout units: Abbr. (TPS.); 1D: Pioneering computer (ENIAC); 2D: Shop talk (LINGO); 3D: Lilas or tulipe (FLEUR); 4D: Miler Sebastian (COE); 5D: Boston Garden legend (ORR); 6D: Slangy denials (NAHS); 7D: Necklace fastener (CLASP); 8D: Violet lead-in (ULTRA); 9D: Manhattan liquor (RYE); 10D: Period that started with Sputnik (SPACE AGE); 11D: How, in Jerez (COMO); 12D: Bio lab gel (AGAR); 13D: Former European capital (BONN); 18D: Put the kibosh on (VETO); 19D: Recipe bit (DASH); 24D: Salon or Slate, briefly (E-MAG); 25D: Millard's predecessor (ZACHARY); 27D: Earth-to-satellite connections (UPLINKS); 29D: Like many Ariz. residents (RETD.); 31D: Satirical Mort (SAHL); 32D: He played Emile in "South Pacific" (EZIO); 33D: Wheelchair access (RAMP); 34D: Strainer material (MESH); 35D: __ Day: dietary supplement brand (ONE A); 36D: Maker of ShowHouse faucets (MOEN); 38D: "Mazel __!" (TOV); 39D: "The African Queen" co-screenwriter (AGEE); 42D: Went for more memory, say (UPGRADED); 43D: Dodge Viper engine (V-TEN); 48D: 2004 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee Isao (AOKI); 50D: Slap on (DAUB); 52D: Occurs (to) (COMES); 53D: Virus named for an African river (EBOLA); 55D: Bluegrass great Lester (FLATT); 56D: Open, in a way (UNCAP); 57D: "For goodness __!" (SAKES); 58D: "Arms and the Man" playwright (SHAW); 59D: Shade of green (NILE); 60D: What many jocks watch (ESPN); 62D: Don Juan's mother (INEZ); 65D: Cooper's tool (ADZ); 66D: Consequence of getting bombed too often? (DTS); 67D: Wet expanse (SEA).