THEME: Ick — letters "IC" are added to familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style
There should be a rule about add-a-letter puzzles: there has to be something meaningful about the added letters, or some clue has to tie things together with some kind of playful phrase. I always think of a "SPIN" puzzle I once did as a good example of this kind of theme: "SP" went "IN" to familiar phrases, thus creating the wacky. You gotta do something. Something. "IC"? Arbitrary. Random. No good. But here's what's weird — this "IC" theme could have been partially salvaged and made vaguely presentable had 12D: "Now that makes sense" ("I SEE") been cleverly clued — say, as a pun tie-in. [Comment upon figuring out the theme of this puzzle?]. Come on. You know that's good.
- 18A: Break from soldiers' training? (BASIC RELIEF) - playing on "bas-relief"
- 24A: Clown settlement? (ANTIC COLONY) - playing on "ant colony"
- 38A: International affair? (TOPIC OF THE WORLD) - playing on "top of the world"
- 49A: O. Henry stories? (IRONIC WORKS) - playing on "ironworks"
- 60A: Copperfield's limo? (MAGIC WHEELS) - playing on "mag wheels"
I give the theme answers a "C." Like ANTIC COLONY and MAGIC WHEELS, but the rest are kind of lifeless.
Crosswordese 101: Shaquille O'NEAL (64A: Center of Cleveland?) — great, very up-to-date clue today on this very common crossword answer. O'NEAL is starting center on the Xword All-Star team, for sure. You see O'NEAL a lot (it's vowely), and SHAQ has pretty good grid cred as well. Mr. O'NEAL lends himself to great clues, as he is huge and famous and funny and has been in at least one bad mid-90s movie ("Kazaam"). He also likes to give himself ridiculous nicknames like "The Big Aristotle" or "Wilt Chamberneezy." He will be playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers next season, alongside one of the NBA's two biggest stars: LeBron James. O'NEAL already played, and won three rings, with the NBA's other biggest star: Kobe Bryant.
- 27A: Old waste allowance (TRET) — uh, what? I wrote in TARE. What on god's green earth is TRET? The freedictionary.com site says: "(Com.) An allowance to purchasers, for waste or refuse matter, of four pounds on every 104 pounds of suttle weight, or weight after the tare deducted." The cruciverb database turns up 17 examples of its prior use in crosswords, so this is some kind of high-end crosswordese I just haven't been (un-)lucky enough to stumble across before.
- 54A: Pizza chain (SBARRO) — only ever seen SBARRO in airports.
- 58A: Like Bizet's only symphony (IN C) — do Not understand cluing "INC." this way. The "IN + random letter" music clue should be used only for INB, INF, and sometimes INE, IMHO.
- 6D: August comment ("IT'S HOT") — this clue? It's not. Too arbitrary. And, in the southern hemisphere, largely inaccurate. Tie-in to WHEW shows imagination, though (41D: See 6-Down).
- 26D: Vividly colored fish (OPAH) — nearly my Crosswordese 101 word. About the only -P-H word there is.
- 40D: Burkina _____ (FASO) — more crosswordesiness. Landlocked west African nation. Its capital: OUAGADOUGOU.
- 52D: Maker of Advantix cameras (KODAK) — love KODAK because of its twin Ks. Wouldn't mind seeing ADVANTIX in a puzzle.
- 55D: Proverbial thorn (BANE) — I don't think I understand this. Where does the "proverb" come in? If something is a "thorn" in your side, then it is a BANE to you. I get that. BANE is also a poisonous plant, but not necessarily a thorny one.
- 57D: England's Portsmouth Harbour and others (RIAS) — super crosswordy word. RIAS are kind of like FJORDS except FJORDS are produced by glaciers and RIAS by rivers.
See you Monday,
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
Everything Else — 1A: Devious, in a way (COY); 4A: Bad states (SNITS); 9A: You often see a lap in one (CHAIR); 14A: Bullet in a deck (ACE); 15A: Strange (OUTRE); 16A: Kind of trader (HORSE); 17A: Royal sleep disturbance, in a tale (PEA); 18A: Break from soldiers' training? (BASIC RELIEF); 20A: Ill-advised (RASH); 22A: Flames' org. (NHL); 23A: Gives the slip (EVADES); 24A: Clown settlement? (ANTIC COLONY); 27A: Old waste allowance (TRET); 28A: Resemble strongly (PASS FOR); 33A: ID necessity, often (PHOTO); 36A: Plow into (RAM); 37A: Like Chinese dishes, frequently (TO GO); 38A: International affair? (TOPIC OF THE WORLD); 42A: It may be gross in med sch. (ANAT.); 43A: OPEC member (UAE); 44A: Development units (HOMES); 45A: Picks (SELECTS); 47A: Monopoly card (DEED); 49A: O. Henry stories? (IRONIC WORKS); 54A: Pizza chain (SBARRO); 58A: Like Bizet's only symphony (IN C); 59A: Night light (NEON); 60A: Copperfield's limo? (MAGIC WHEELS); 63A: Short sentence about a long term (I DO); 64A: Center of Cleveland? (O'NEAL); 65A: Some plots (ACRES); 66A: "I reckon not" ("NAW"); 67A: Noodleheads (GEESE); 68A: "Siddhartha" author (HESSE); 69A: It's up to you (SKY); 1D: "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" director (CAPRA); 2D: Shore thing (OCEAN); 3D: Dough-raising need (YEAST); 4D: __ story (SOB); 5D: Fine point (NUANCE); 6D: August comment (IT'S HOT); 7D: Warbling sound (TRILL); 8D: IPO overseer (SEC); 9D: Malibu and Tahoe (CHEVYS); 10D: Guadalajara greeting (HOLA); 11D: Ideal for Joshua trees (ARID); 12D: "Now that makes sense" ("I SEE"); 13D: Trio in an NBA game (REFS); 19D: Entitle, as an altered file (RENAME); 21D: Ancient Indo-European (HITTITE); 25D: Swift reptile (CROC); 26D: Vividly colored fish (OPAH); 29D: Used as an elevator (STOOD ON); 30D: Blob's lack (FORM); 31D: Rubberneck (OGLE); 32D: Eye cells (RODS); 33D: NEA supporters (PTAS); 34D: Fine-tune (HONE); 35D: Fall birthstone (OPAL); 36D: Itinerary abbr. (RTE.); 39D: Have a better crew than (OUTROW); 40D: Burkina __ (FASO); 41D: See 6-Down (WHEW); 46D: Group with common interests (CIRCLE); 47D: Some booth occupants (DINERS); 48D: Proverbs follower: Abbr. (ECCLES.); 50D: Heiress, perhaps (NIECE); 51D: Equestrian tools (REINS); 52D: Maker of Advantix cameras (KODAK); 53D: Blizzardlike (SNOWY); 54D: Urban hazard (SMOG); 55D: Proverbial thorn (BANE); 56D: "A Death in the Family" novelist (AGEE); 57D: England's Portsmouth Harbour and others (RIAS); 61D: "As if!" ("HAH!"); 62D: Mariner's hdg. (SSE).