THEME: The Saturday puzzle is themeless—the game is decoding tougher clues and figuring out a slew of longer words and phrases.
Just like last Saturday's L.A. Times crossword, this puzzle felt like an easy Friday NYT puzzle—and I had a bottle of Stella before I began the puzzle.
The grid is unusual—if it weren't for the black squares in each corner, this puzzle would have triple stacks of 15-letter answers at the top and bottom. Instead, it's got pairs of 15's with single 13's. I love that last Across answer, TEETER-TOTTERS (61A: They have their ups and downs). It's got the most boring letters in the English language, the sort of letters that often populate the bottom row of a crossword, but we don't see too many 13's in themeless puzzles, and TEETER-TOTTERS have that playground nostalgia cachet.
Crosswordese 101: All right, today we've got two solid three-letter crosswordese words with Asian roots, and they're right next to each other. We'll bypass TET (57D: Vietnamese festival) for now and instead take a gander at EDO (58D: Pre-1868 Tokyo). There's a limited number of ways constructors will point you towards EDO. The clue might be something like Shogun's capital, or just a plain ol' Tokyo, formerly. If this one's new to you, make a note of it because it's definitely going to show up again.
Now, who's ready for some more clues and answers?
- 14A: 1999 Winona Ryder movie (GIRL, INTERRUPTED). Sure, Winona had the lead role but it was Angelina Jolie who went home with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
- 18A: Word seen between surnames (NÉE). Seldom seen anymore outside of crosswordland. I wanted to give it the Crosswordese 101 treatment but it was already covered a month ago. It's French for the adjective "born," in the feminine. Way retro.
- 19A: Partners may form one: Abbr. (LLC). That's a limited liability corporation.
- 27A: Catalog section (FOR HER). Ooh, I do not care for this answer at all. It might work better as a transgressive six-letter partial answer filling in the blank in the condom tag line, "ribbed ___ pleasure."
- 30A: RED is a Rare sign? as in a sign of rareness in a slab of beef. (Ick.)
- 34A: JACK FROST (Nose nipper in a Christmas song) is a terrific answer. The clue seems a little boring, but it's worlds better than cluing this name with reference to that dreadful Michael Keaton movie in which a creepy-looking snowman comes to life.
- 44A: EARN IT probably doesn't quite reach the bar of "stand-alone phrases that are suitable crossword fill," but I like it anyway because the clue sells it: What you've got to do "if you want my love," in a Temptations song. Never heard the song in my life before now, so let's have a listen:
- 50A: Double drunk crosswordese! They're usually lit clues SOTS, and I never hear anyone use "lit" to mean drunk or call anyone a "sot."
- 52A: Fuzzy TV E.T. (ALF). I never watched the show, so my knowledge of it comes from crosswords. It's A.L.F. with periods, which isn't apparent from how it shows up in the grid. ALF ate cats. He was from the planet Melmac, not to be confused with a melamine bowl of mac & cheese.
- 54A: Kind of butter (APPLE). This is a common cluing convention, this "kind of ___" clue. But APPLE is not any kind of butter. Apple butter is a butter of a sort.There are those who would much rather see a straight-up fill-in-the-blank clue or an entirely different cluing direction than have yet another "kind of ___" clue. Among the old NYT crossword forum crowd, these are called "sea anemone" clues, inspired by SEA clued as "Kind of anemone." I'm not sure if the sea anemone example is real or fictional.
- 60A: Source of much hard wood? is the PETRIFIED FOREST. Of course, it's not wood anymore. It's mineral deposits that have replaced the wood over the ages. Speaking of geological ages, can you guess 1D: the Epoch in which grazing mammals became widespread? Why, it's the MIOCENE, of course, or, as I like to call it, "that less familiar epoch you get through the crossings."
- 7D: Kabayaki fish is EEL. (Japanese + fish)/3 letters = EEL. Unless, of course, it's AHI tuna.
- 21D: Tanner of '70s-'80s tennis (ROSCOE). I can't keep him straight in my head because The Dukes of Hazzard's Rosco P. Coltrane occupies the same mental real estate.
- 22D: ORSK is a City on the Ural. I always start with OMSK, another Russian city that is four times the size of ORSK.
- 34D: Island in the Sulu Archipelago clues JOLO. Wow. I like geography and I've been doing crosswords for three decades, but I needed every single crossing to figure this one out. I was thinking Indonesia, but it's the Philippines. It's the site of much unrest, both volcanic and political.
Everything Else — 1A: Much sought-after title object, in a 1930 mystery (MALTESE FALCON); 16A: Italian, e.g. (ROMANCE LANGUAGE); 17A: Desktop array (ICONS); 20A: Barcelona "but" (PERO); 21A: Scholarship-granting mil. program (ROTC); 24A: "Got it" (ROGER); 26A: From Pitts. to Boston (ENE); 29A: Toons Pixie and Dixie, e.g. (MICE); 31A: To be, to Brutus (ESSE); 32A: Morphine, for one (OPIATE); 36A: Altogether (IN TOTO); 39A: P&G Pet Care brand (IAMS); 40A: Flesh-blood link (AND); 43A: Biceps toner (CURL); 46A: Poor mark (DEE); 47A: Prufrock's creator (ELIOT); 49A: French friend (AMIE); 51A: Largest airport in OH (CLE); 55A: Masthead listing (ASSOCIATE EDITOR); 1D: Epoch in which grazing mammals became widespread (MIOCENE); 2D: Well-protected, in a way (ARMORED); 3D: Southwestern plain (LLANO); 4D: Metal containers (TINS); 5D: Letter-bottom abbr. (ENC.); 6D: __-Thérèse, Quebec (STE); 8D: Nice location? (FRANCE); 9D: "Rule, Britannia" composer (ARNE); 10D: German semiautomatic (LUGER); 11D: Intel product, briefly (CPU); 12D: Earache (OTALGIA); 13D: Allow to worsen (NEGLECT); 14D: Malcontent (GRIPER); 15D: Fiat (DECREE); 23D: 1991 Grisham novel (THE FIRM); 25D: Bypass (OMIT); 27D: Accomplishment (FEAT); 28D: Rent splitter (ROOMIE); 33D: "Ahem" cousin (PSST); 35D: Indian princess (RANI); 36D: Polar feature (ICE CAP); 37D: Group with no members, in math (NULL SET); 38D: Port of NE Italy (TRIESTE); 40D: Pet shelter visitor, perhaps (ADOPTER); 41D: Red figure (NET LOSS); 42D: Joshua tree habitat (DESERT); 45D: Erle Stanley Gardner pseudonym (A. A. FAIR); 48D: Understood (TACIT); 50D: Cathedral topper (SPIRE); 53D: Magazine that first published "The Old Man and the Sea" (LIFE); 54D: "A line is __ that went for a walk": Klee (A DOT); 56D: Mt. Hood's state (ORE); 59D: New newt (EFT).