THEME: "The Jack Box" — theme answers all take phrases with the pattern "x IN THE y" and represent the phrases "literally" by putting "x" between "THE" and "y"; hence "GORILLAS IN THE MIST" becomes THE GORILLAS MIST, with GORILLAS "literally" *in* "THE MIST"
I loved this puzzle. If the L.A. Times insists on making its late-week puzzles much easier in order to accommodate a new, broader readership that doesn't appreciate stumpers very much, then this is the kind of puzzle I hope I see more of. Clean, crisp, fresh, amusing, and elegantly constructed. The only blot is the fact that GHOST is not an animal, unlike the GORILLA, ELEPHANT, and MONKEY that come before it. Maybe it's the GHOST of a rabbit or something. I can imagine. The grid is pretty low on cruddy fill (AIMER's about as bad as it gets, 68A: Archer, at times), and the cluing is really clever today. Loved almost all the tricky "?"-clues:
- 60D: Blue books? (SMUT) — always remember: "blue" can = "erotic/pornographic"
- 64D: Debugging application? (DEET)
- 67D: Pitches between innings? (ADS): always remember: "pitch" can = "advertisement"
... and really loved 71A: Subject of a promise to deliver, with "the" for GOODS. Love the twin cooking-related pillars of STIR (39A: Commotion) and WHIR (43A: Blender sound). There was an error in one of the clues in my puzzle, but I'm going to assume it got fixed before press. My 6D reads [Decorative Eastern accessory] and the answer is OBIS, plural. If answer is plural, then clue should be plural. Maybe your clue is.
- 17A: 1988 biopic about Dian Fossey, literally ("THE GORILLAS MIST") — watch for DIAN in future puzzles. She's common.
- 27A: It's too important to ignore, literally (THE ELEPHANT ROOM)
- 49A: Kids' ball game, literally (THE MONKEY MIDDLE)
- 65A: Metaphorical philosophical conflict used as an album title by The Police, literally (THE GHOST MACHINE)
A few hiccups along the way. Wrote in APING for APERY (32D: Impressionist's skill) because, well ... come on, APERY? It's a word, but not exactly in common use. Goes great with MIMIC, though, I'll give it that (47D: Copy). Then there was IRATE for IRKED (61A: Not happy) and COB for TOE (45D: Corn site). Otherwise, smooth sailing.
Crosswordese 101: ORIEL (34D: Projecting window) — 5-letter words that are 60%+ vowels are going to come back, again and again. The fact that this one came back again and again is the reason it's a gimme for me now. Answers.com defines ORIEL as "A bay window projecting from an upper floor, supported from below with a corbel or bracket." You are not apt to see CORBEL in a puzzle. Ever. I associate ORIEL with OSIER, for no good reason except the vowel placements, and the fact that I learned both words from crosswords. But OSIER will have to wait for another day...
- 22A: Oenophile's word (oaky) — took some crosses to get it. Like that it crosses CASK (12D: Large container). OENOphile is a word you'll see a lot of in future xwords, esp. that OENO- prefix. Likes to be an answer all on its own. Vowely.
- 30D: Blood test feature (prick) — ! Intersects SIRED, which I'm sure means nothing (41A: Brought into being).
Look for IBEX and ENOS in future Crosswordese 101 lessons ...
See you Monday. Enjoy the 4th (where relevant).
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
Everything Else — 1A: Powerful court opponent (ACER); 5A: Remote location? (SOFA); 9A: City near Syracuse (UTICA); 14A: Bay relative (COVE); 15A: Surefooted goat (IBEX); 16A: Frigid (POLAR); 17A: 1988 biopic about Dian Fossey, literally (THE GORILLAS MIST); 20A: Navigational aid (SONAR); 21A: Originate (from) (STEM); 22A: Oenophile's word (OAKY); 23A: Race unit (LAP); 25A: Corn unit (EAR); 27A: It's too important to ignore, literally (THE ELEPHANT ROOM); 36A: Enthusiasm (VIM); 37A: Barber's device (STROP); 38A: "Sicko" filmmaker Michael (MOORE); 39A: Commotion (STIR); 41A: Brought into being (SIRED); 43A: Blender sound (WHIR); 44A: Acclaim (ECLAT); 46A: Kind of drive (CD-ROM); 48A: Epitome of slipperiness (EEL); 49A: Kids' ball game, literally (THE MONKEY MIDDLE); 52A: __ green (PEA); 53A: Source of low-fat meat (EMU); 54A: Pop (SODA); 57A: Chuck (TOSS); 61A: Not happy (IRKED); 65A: Metaphorical philosophical conflict used as an album title by The Police, literally (THE GHOST MACHINE); 68A: Archer, at times (AIMER); 69A: Musician's forte? (LOUD); 70A: Skin soother (ALOE); 71A: Subject of a promise to deliver, with "the" (GOODS); 72A: Chooses (OPTS); 73A: Lion's share (MOST); 1D: John follower (ACTS); 2D: Small salmon (COHO); 3D: Fifty-fifty (EVEN); 4D: Wine and dine (REGALE); 5D: Paul McCartney, e.g. (SIR); 6D: Decorative Eastern accessory (OBIS); 7D: Experienced (FELT); 8D: Hot rod rod (AXLE); 9D: Bulls' predictions (UPS); 10D: Song that begins "The sun'll come out" (TOMORROW); 11D: Pelvic bones (ILIA); 12D: Large container (CASK); 13D: Affectedly cultural (ARTY); 18D: Hurdles for would-be doctors (ORALS); 19D: Service ender (AMEN); 24D: Guinea pigs, maybe (PETS); 26D: Green dispenser (ATM); 27D: Tube, so to speak (TV SET); 28D: Thumb (HITCH); 29D: Novelist Zola (EMILE); 30D: Blood test feature (PRICK); 31D: Throng (HORDE); 32D: Impressionist's skill (APERY); 33D: Marveled audibly (OOHED); 34D: Projecting window (ORIEL); 35D: Country Music Hall of Famer __ Travis (MERLE); 40D: Rushed violently (RAMPAGED); 42D: Carrier __: Syracuse stadium (DOME); 45D: Corn site (TOE); 47D: Copy (MIMIC); 50D: Alb. and Cro. joined it 4/1/2009 (NATO); 51D: North Carolina college town (DURHAM); 54D: Alone (STAG); 55D: Home to Columbus (OHIO); 56D: Audition handout (DEMO); 58D: 1952 Olympics host (OSLO); 59D: Knock off (STOP); 60D: Blue books? (SMUT); 62D: Metric weight, for short (KILO); 63D: Son of Seth (ENOS); 64D: Debugging application? (DEET); 66D: Store posting: Abbr. (HRS); 67D: Pitches between innings? (ADS).