THEME: Moon Landing — a 40th anniversary tribute puzzle, with six (or seven) theme answers arranged symmetrically (or asymmetrically) throughout the grid
Where were you 40 years ago today? I am very certain of where I was: in utero. Where my mom was, I don't know. Probably somewhere in the San Francisco area, since I was born there. This puzzle is very dense, theme-wise, for a Monday puzzle. For any puzzle, frankly, but such theme density is especially rare on a Monday, since it often forces the non-theme fill out of Monday-level comfort zones. Not so here, though some of the fill is less than elegant in places. But any infelicities in that area are trumped by the timely theme, with the particularly lovely TRANQUILITY BASE going right across the middle. COLLINS is the one ASTRONAUT on that mission that I can never remember; ALDRIN and ARMSTRONG are household names. That's because COLLINS was the command module pilot, and had to orbit the moon while ALDRIN and ARMSTRONG got to walk on it.
- 16A: 57-Across, 12-Down or 24-Down (ASTRONAUT)
- 12D: 16-Across Buzz (ALDRIN)
- 24D: 16-Across Michael (COLLINS)
- 57A: 16-Across Neil (ARMSTRONG)
- 35A: Landing site of 7/20/1969 (TRANQUILITY BASE)
- 42D: _____ 11, mission celebrated in this puzzle (APOLLO)
And one asymmetrical, bonus answer:
- 9D: 35-Across is on it (MOON)
Crosswordese 101: IAMBS (49D: Poetry feet) — as the resident English professor, I guess it should fall to me to add this one to the Crosswordese 101 registry. Metrical poetry has, as its most basic unit, the foot, and there are a certain number feet per line. So when we talk about Shakespeare's sonnets, say, being in IAMBIC pentameter, what we are saying is that there are five (pent-) IAMBS per line. An IAMB is a set of two syllables, unstressed/stressed, exemplified by words like "Belize" or "endow." Iambic pentameter = IAMB x 5, e.g. "My MIS/tress' EYES/are NOTH/ing LIKE/the SUN." There are other kinds of poetic feet — dactyls (stressed + 2 unstressed), anapests (2 unstressed + stressed), trochees (stressed / unstressed), etc. — but ANAPEST is about the only one you'll ever see in crosswords. There are different kinds of meter too: tetrameter has four feet per line, hexameter six, etc. If you'd like to know more, just come to one of my September lectures, where I deal with all this technical crap in one very animated hour (wherein I roam the aisles and recite random bits of poetry, causing students to be too amused / disturbed to fall asleep or talk or check their text messages).
There's some ugliness here today. Is it legal to have "set" in the clue for SETTEE (44D: Part of a living room set)? Feels very wrong. PSEUD is one of my least favorite stand-alone words (46A: Pretentious one). Never heard anyone use it. Ever. Only a PSEUD would use PSEUD, I think. Is that a paradox? Whatever it is, blecch. The -IER triplets aren't much prettIER. "Once upon a time there were three little words named DALL IER, SUDS IER, and BOX IER. They got stranded in the GOBI and had to eat their OX TEAM (52A: Yoked beasts, collectively) just to survive. The end."
Awesome words include PINCER (20A: One of a crab's grabbers), CHIMNEY (15D: Sweep's milieu), and the phenomenal and kinda sorta nearly thematic (in that it involves outer space) QUASARS (36D: Highly luminous cosmic objects).
Happy Moon Day. See you Friday.
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Everything Else — 1A: Federal job safety org. (OSHA); 5A: Gorilla and gibbon (APES); 9A: __ Hari (MATA); 13A: Prison uprising (RIOT); 14A: Pot pie veggies (PEAS); 15A: Early programming language (COBOL); 16A: 57-Across, 12-Down or 24-Down (ASTRONAUT); 18A: Secretly stock up on (HOARD); 19A: Wicker furniture maker (CANER); 20A: One of a crab's grabbers (PINCER); 21A: Gaza Strip gp. (PLO); 23A: TV kid "in the middle" (MALCOLM); 26A: Sch. with a Providence campus (URI); 27A: Holy, in Le Havre (SACRE); 29A: "The Good Earth" mother (O-LAN); 30A: Luke, to Darth (SON); 31A: Slipper or sandal (SHOE); 32A: Dawdling type (DALLIER); 35A: Landing site of 7/20/1969 (TRANQUILITY BASE); 40A: What bikinis expose, informally (TUMMIES); 41A: Informed about (IN ON); 42A: Sit-up targets (ABS); 45A: Yemen city (ADEN); 46A: Pretentious one (PSEUD); 47A: "The Tell-Tale Heart" author (POE); 48A: More foamy, as soap (SUDSIER); 51A: Naval noncom: Abbr. (CPO); 52A: Yoked beasts, collectively (OX TEAM); 54A: For all to hear (ALOUD); 56A: It's slightly larger than a quart (LITER); 57A: 16-Across Neil (ARMSTRONG); 61A: Ogles (LEERS); 62A: Asian desert (GOBI); 63A: Resting on (ATOP); 64A: Nabisco chocolate-and-creme cookie (OREO); 65A: Get up (RISE); 66A: Mother of Castor and Pollux (LEDA); 1D: "... man __ mouse?" (OR A); 2D: Girl sib (SIS); 3D: Wintertime drink (HOT COCOA); 4D: Gillette razor (ATRA); 5D: Sleep disorder (APNEA); 6D: Oyster's gem (PEARL); 7D: __ de Cologne (EAU); 8D: Former fast flier, for short (SST); 9D: 35-Across is on it (MOON); 10D: Beaded calculator (ABACUS); 11D: Bullring VIP (TORERO); 12D: 16-Across Buzz (ALDRIN); 15D: Sweep's milieu (CHIMNEY); 17D: "Drinks are __" (ON ME); 20D: Braids (PLAITS); 21D: Sibilant "Hey!" ("PSST!"); 22D: Bert who played a lion (LAHR); 24D: 16-Across Michael (COLLINS); 25D: Hardy of Laurel and Hardy (OLLIE); 28D: Apartment payment (RENT); 32D: Kind of bullet that expands on impact (DUMDUM); 33D: Got ready to fire (AIMED); 34D: Score-producing stats (RBIS); 36D: Highly luminous cosmic objects (QUASARS); 37D: Often-amusing story (ANECDOTE); 38D: Gazpacho, e.g. (SOUP); 39D: Within: Pref. (ENDO-); 42D: __ 11, mission celebrated in this puzzle (APOLLO); 43D: More squarish (BOXIER); 44D: Part of a living room set (SETTEE); 46D: Methodist, e.g.: Abbr. (PROT.); 49D: Poetry feet (IAMBS); 50D: Borden mascot (ELSIE); 53D: Architect Saarinen (EERO); 55D: Russia's __ Mountains (URAL); 57D: Part of USDA: Abbr. (AGR.); 58D: French king (ROI); 59D: Nonverbal assent (NOD); 60D: Coll. student's concern (GPA).