THEME: The Saturday puzzle is themeless—the game is decoding tougher clues and figuring out a slew of longer words and phrases.
This puzzle felt like an easy Friday NYT puzzle—it fell about 20% faster than last Saturday's L.A. Times crossword. There are some great answers and some not so great ones. We'll touch on those after today's tutorial.
Crosswordese 101: Ooh, I'm torn. EMOTE (15A: Not act well) is a solid contender, but when it comes to crossword stalwarts, you can't beat a three-letter answer that's two thirds vowels. No, not IMO, AIR, ARE, or ETA—today's featured old-school answer is REO (9D: Hupmobile contemporary). What is a Hupmobile? Nobody knows. But REO was a car company founded by Randolph Eli Olds, whose previous company became Oldsmobile. That Wikipedia link tells me the car was always pronounced like "rio" and not "R.E.O." Does it matter what the most common clues for the word are? Really, no. If the clue smacks of early automobiles and the answer has three letters, you're looking for REO. They made cars from 1905 to 1936, and continued making trucks until the '70s. Their famous truck model was the REO Speed Wagon. Ah, that takes me back:
I think my sister's cellphone ringtone is an REO Speedwagon song. I'm not sure if it's this one or a different song, but this one's a particular favorite for rhyming "I don't believe it" with "not for a meeeen-it."
How about some more clues and answers?
- 16A: A Ripped poser is a MALE MODEL. I was going to illustrate this one with a photo, but soon into the Google image search, my eyeballs had exploded from exposure to too many sculpted abs.
- 18A: To Work on galleys is to PROOFREAD. Yup. Been there, done that.
- 29A: The word DEGLOSS is included. It means Roughen before repainting, apparently. Deglossing also happens, I believe, when someone with a fresh coat of lip gloss wipes her (or his!) mouth. This is one of those lifeless words that nobody likes to run into in a crossword. The D crosses 21D: RED SONJA ("She-devil with a sword" of comics) and the O is in 26D: DOS EQUIS (Mexican beer with XX on its label), though, and I love those answers.
- You wanted 37A: Whistler's output to be an OIL painting of the artist's mother, didn't you? I did. But it's AIR, that stuff you blow out when you whistle.
- You don't see a ton of Q words that aren't QU words. 43A: Sponsor of the Socceroos is the Aussie airline QANTAS. I found its missing U—two of them, in fact—in the next Across answer, JUJITSU (45A: Art developed by ancient samurai). Words with two J's are always welcome in my crossword.
- 48A: 1962 Lancaster title role is BIRDMAN, which also is the name of a rapper I hadn't heard of.
- RETRO-CHIC (56A: Dated but popular) is a terrific, fresh answer.
- I don't know that the clue for 1D: MEDIA BIAS, Slant in columns, is quite right. The right wing talks about a "liberal bias" in the media, in the news sections and not the opinion columns. Isn't a "slant in columns" merely the columnist's opinion and not MEDIA BIAS?
- There are plenty of things that could fit the clue 2D: Auto feature, but many of those would be boring crossword fill. AM/FM RADIO with its MFMR consonant pile-up is good fill. Are you old enough to remember when cheaper cars had only an AM radio, no FM?
- What's this? The 14D: "Murphy Brown" house painter was spelled ELDIN and not Eldon? That just seems wrong.
- You know what I think of when I think of OPIUM dens? (32D: Kind of den.) The Men at Work lyric, "Lying in a den in Bombay / With a slack jaw and not much to say."
- 34D: Burger cooked like a grilled cheese is the PATTY MELT. Never had it, never will.
- 35D: Foundation protector (DRAIN TILE). "Listen, honey, after you finish DEGLOSSing the paint in the kitchen, you should really go down and take a look at the DRAIN TILEs."
- 36D: Guinea pigs (TEST CASES). These are figurative guinea pigs, not literal ones. Good clue/answer combo.
- 44D: "Stillmatic" rapper (NAS). Rex just bought Nas's Illmatic, which came out in '94; Stillmatic was released in '01.
- 45D: Red Sox outfielder since 2007 (J.D. DREW). That's the sort of answer I usually like, one with a Scrabbly letter like J, a person's full name, and a crazy pile-up of consonants. But I've never heard of J.D. DREW. Rex is a big Red Sox fan, so he will be aghast at that.
- 48D: Foot specialists? with a question mark aren't podiatrists or pedicurists. They're BARDS, a.k.a. poets, a.k.a. people who write with meter, as in metrical feet like iambs.