THEME: L before D — "L" sound added just before "D" in familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style
Listening to "Thriller" right now because I just learned that Michael Jackson is dead, and despite the child abuse allegations and overall jacko wackiness of the past two decades, I'm still oddly sad. He was off-the-charts talented. His whole post-"Thriller" life has been one giant, slowly growing "WTF!??!" Kind of tragic. SAD CASE, as it were (13D: Tsk evoker). So I choose to remember the album that Blew My Mind when I was at my most musically impressionable (13, to be precise). I remember the first time I saw him moonwalk. It was like I'd seen someone levitate. Anyway, I'm in a weird, down, nostalgic mood at the moment. No idea how that affected my view of the puzzle.
I took a while to get going on this puzzle because after I got HELD QUARTERS, I figured I was looking at a simple letter-swap puzzle. A goes to L. Ta da! But no. Other answers weren't shaping up that way. I was way down at PIE A LA MOLD before I figured it out, and the others were easy to set straight. Otherwise, nothing too tough, and whatever was tough could be pieced together from crosses, e.g. NOLA, a huge ??? for me (21A: Historic Italian city near Naples), despite the fact that I've probably seen it in puzzles before.
- 18A: Rhinovirus kept under wraps? (SECRET COLD)
- 24A: Saved up for the slots? (HELD QUARTERS)
- 34A: One great baseball play after another? (FIELDING FRENZY) — all ball-related plays on the field are considered FIELDING, not just great ones, so this clue/answer pair doesn't make much sense.
- 50A: Flared pants for steelworkers? (WELDING BELLS) — cool
- 56A: Dessert that's been out for too long? (PIE A LA MOLD)
Crosswordese 101: ILONA (17A: Old-time actress Massey) — you're going to see a lot of old-time actresses in the puzzle, most of whom are there not because of their great and enduring fame, but because of a combination of their former fame and their handy-dandy names (i.e. great letter combos for constructors). ILONA is a textbook example of this. 60% vowels, initial "I," terminal "A" — all good stuff. Look also for POLA Negri and MABEL Normand (there just aren't that many famous MABELs, it turns out).
- 36D: Kindles, as passions (inflames) — Michael's hair went up IN FLAMES during the filming of a Pepsi commercial in the 80s. He seems to have survived the following commercial OK, though.
- 45A: Buttercup family member (ANEMONE) — saw some of these in the woods today. Wouldn't have known that's what they were, but there was a helpful wildflower guide at the entrance to the trails.
- 30A: "My Boys" airer (TBS) — what fresh hell is this?
- 58A: Island where Bill and Melinda Gates were wed (LANAI) — where's my "Golden Girls" clue!?
- 64A: Imperial Oil brand (ESSO) — Who? Man, I thought I'd seen every ESSO clue in the book.
- 8D: In direr straits (WORSE OFF) — ow, "direr" hurts my ears so bad ...
- 33A: Muse of memory (MNEME) — whence "MNEMONIC" as in "MNEMONIC device" e.g. HOMES, ROY G BIV, etc.
See you all Monday.
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
Everything Else — 1A: Fast (SWIFT); 6A: Uses a Singer (SEWS); 10A: GE and GM (MFRS); 14A: One who never gets out (LIFER); 15A: "__ Rappaport": 1986 Tony winner for Best Play (I'M NOT); 16A: Neighborhood (AREA); 17A: Old-time actress Massey (ILONA); 18A: Rhinovirus kept under wraps? (SECRET COLD); 20A: Pink lady liquor (GIN); 21A: Historic Italian city near Naples (NOLA); 23A: Quaking? (SEISMIC); 24A: Saved up for the slots? (HELD QUARTERS); 27A: Bond rating (AAA); 28A: Auditions (TRYOUTS); 29A: __ Hashanah (ROSH); 30A: "My Boys" airer (TBS); 31A: Contest (VIE); 32A: Bungler (OAF); 33A: Security concern (MOLE); 34A: One great baseball play after another? (FIELDING FRENZY); 39A: Kitchen supplies (POTS); 40A: Blowup source, briefly (NEG); 41A: Affirmative vote (AYE); 42A: Reading and others: Abbr. (RRS); 43A: A, in communications (ALFA); 45A: Buttercup family member (ANEMONE); 49A: D-H filler (EFG); 50A: Flared pants for steelworkers? (WELDING BELLS); 52A: Public face (PERSONA); 54A: "Naked Maja" painter (GOYA); 55A: Passbook abbr. (DEP); 56A: Dessert that's been out for too long? (PIE A LA MOLD); 58A: Island where Bill and Melinda Gates were wed (LANAI); 60A: Type type: Abbr. (ITAL); 61A: Black tea (PEKOE); 62A: Car dealer's offering (LEASE); 63A: Where el sol rises (ESTE); 64A: Imperial Oil brand (ESSO); 65A: Certain NCOs (SSGTS); 1D: Affront (SLIGHT); 2D: More cunning (WILIER); 3D: "I wish!" (IF ONLY); 4D: Boggy locale (FEN); 5D: Serene (TRANQUIL); 6D: Not spread carefully (SMEAR); 7D: SASE, e.g. (ENC); 8D: In direr straits (WORSE OFF); 9D: Keeps the car on the road (STEERS); 10D: Apple products (MACS); 11D: Completely (FROM A TO Z); 12D: In a way you can count on (RELIABLY); 13D: Tsk evoker (SAD CASE); 15D: __ Canarias (ISLAS); 19D: Mrs. Addams, to Gomez (TISH); 22D: Exposed publicly (OUTED); 25D: Peace advocates (DOVES); 26D: "Perry Mason" lieutenant (TRAGG); 32D: Early first century date (ONE A.D.); 33D: Muse of memory (MNEME); 34D: Gives up (FORFEITS); 35D: Words before "to be alive" or "to be back" (IT'S GREAT); 36D: Kindles, as passions (INFLAMES); 37D: Slender and long-limbed (RANGY); 38D: Looks over closely (EYEBALLS); 39D: Private school teen (PREPPIE); 43D: MP's quarry (AWOL); 44D: Delaware tribe (LENAPE); 45D: Battery terminal (ANODE); 46D: Racing has-been (OLD NAG); 47D: Place for Marlins, briefly (NL EAST); 48D: Glimpses (ESPIES); 51D: Block house (IGLOO); 53D: Rep's success (SALE); 57D: Gives the nod (OKS); 59D: JFK's UN ambassador (AES).