THEME: The Saturday puzzle is themeless—the game is decoding tougher clues and figuring out a slew of longer words and phrases.
All right, I'm happy. This one's a couple notches tougher than the last several Saturday L.A. Times crosswords have been, and I do like 'em challenging. I'd be happier if it were 20% harder, but I don't see that happening. Now, often a crossword with "triple stacks"—trios of 15-letter entries stacked up in the grid—is a good bit easier than the norm, because the Down answers crossing the triple stack tend to be short and gettable, and once you get a handful of letters in a 15 and see what that answer is, you blow the whole section wide open. But not this time! Doug has done a fantastic job of constructing this puzzle, having 8 of the 15 Downs crossing each triple stack in the 6- to 8-letter range. That, I tell you, takes some ovarios—wouldn't want to be SEXIST (Like much wage discrimination) and say it takes cojones. Or it takes gender-neutral chops, crossword-fu.
This puzzle's definitely got some tough words in it (notably in the southwest corner), but I don't see anything I'd assign to the "crappy fill" category. I mean, I make allowances for some crap, but I'm not seeing any here. This baby is super-solid. Doug, you are entering the ranks of crossword AUTEURs (Stylish filmmaker).
Theme entries: The triple-stacked 15's sure don't qualify as theme entries, but let's feature them up top anyway because they're smooooth:
- 1A: Winner of 49 Pulitzer Prizes (ASSOCIATED PRESS). Did you notice that THENEWYORKTIMES is also 15 letters long?
- 16A: Diner order (SPANISH OMELETTE). Does anyone prepare Spanish or Denver omelets (the spelling I prefer) at home. or do you just order them at restaurants?
- 17A: 200-mph swooper (PEREGRINE FALCON). I know darn well that trains do not swoop, but I still wanted this to be some sort of bullet train, like the ones in Europe and Japan. Wow! A 200-mph bird? If you are a mouse hoping to avoid being the falcon's next meal, I'm sorry, but you don't stand a chance.
- 46A: Two-generation groups (NUCLEAR FAMILIES). Some of them tend to have atomic interpersonal relationships, but that has nothing to do with the phrase's origin, I'm sure.
- 50A: State collections (INTERNAL REVENUE). I just got my IRS refund this week. That money could buy a lot of crossword books...if only I weren't still trying to work through a backlog of puzzle publications.
- 51A: Some decks (CASSETTE PLAYERS). Tape decks! Not boat decks.
And now, today's most insane answers:
- 30D: Highest rank in sumo (YOKOZUNA). Do you know this word? I sure didn't.
- 31D: "The __ of Confucius" (ANALECTS). Hmm? Analects (or analecta) are "a collection of short literary or philosophical extracts." Is it too late to call this blog "Analects About the L.A. Times Crossword Puzzle"?
- 33D: Patron saint of astronomers (DOMINIC). I know there was a Dominic West on The Wire, and Dominic Monaghan played Charlie on Lost and Meriadoc Brandybuck in Lord of the Rings. This St. DOMINIC is the one the Dominican order is named after.
- 18A: Menu items (ICONS). Aha! Computer menu, not a restaurant menu.
- 20A: MLB stat (HRS). It's probably short for home runs, but when a game goes into extra innings, my, how the hours drag on.
- 26A: Breakdown (PARSE). When it comes to making sense of multi-word answers in the crossword, especially short ones, you need to PARSE them.
- 27A: General drift (TENOR). Who doesn't admire The Three General Drifts? Here they are:
- 29A: Heavy (BAD GUY)—this one's right above the SEXIST, aptly enough.
- 40A: Sake brewer's need (MOLD). Ew! When out for Japanese food, I will stick with the plum wine, thanks. And if wine is made with MOLD too, please don't tell me.
- 45A: Eponymous Italian physicist (VOLTA). What would you call a 9-volt battery without VOLTA? Maybe a 9-smith battery?
- 2D: Change (SPECIE). That's change as in coins, metal money.
- 8D: Tops in chic (TONIEST). My goodness, that clue is nutty. Would anyone ever use that phrase? "Wow, that Hermès bag is tops in chic!"
- 10D: "Captain Singleton" author (DEFOE). OK, I know who Daniel DeFoe is. But this "Captain Singleton," I don't know.