Theme: "Today's theme is brought to you by the letter ..." — Theme answers are familiar phrases the first word of which is a homophone for a letter of the alphabet.
- 20A: Photographer of a letter? (P SHOOTER). Pea shooter.
- 26A: Letter's rest period? (T BREAK). Tea break. Is this a thing? Coffee break, okay. Tea break? Any Brits out there, please let me know.
- 49A: Undercover operation to trap a letter? (B STING). Bee sting.
- 56A: One who can't hold a letter? (I DROPPER). Eye dropper.
- 10D: Letter out for a stroll? (J WALKING). Jaywalking.
- 38D: Official in charge of a letter? (C CAPTAIN). Sea captain.
- 51D: Future docs' exams (MCATS).
- 54D: Times to attack (D-DAYS).
This puzzle seemed a little more difficult than what we've been getting lately from the L.A. Times. I haven't been timing myself regularly on the LAT, but I did today and I ended up right at my average time for a Wednesday N.Y. Times puzzle. I guess it seemed more difficult to me because I scanned through the acrosses and didn't have many gimmes. Once I found a couple places to get a foothold, it all came together pretty nicely, but I almost had that Saturday "Oh crap! Look at all these empty boxes!" feeling for a while.
There were a couple clunkers and I sure would be remiss not to point them out to you. First in line is AGER (19A: Stress, it's said). Now this isn't horrible fill, it's just an awkward clue. I would prefer a fill-in-the-blank clue ("Golden ___" or "Teen___") to this one. Next is UNROBE (4D: Strip), which is a mash-up of UNdress and disROBE. Finally, if this is the first time you've encountered AGIN' (35D: Opposin') in the puzzle I just want to say I feel your pain. It's awful, but you'll just need to find a way to accept it and move on because you're going to see it again. I learned a long time ago that you can accept the way things are kicking and screaming, or you can accept the way things are without kicking and screaming, but those are your only two choices. So let's just see if we can minimize the kicking and screaming, okay?
Oh but there are some gems here too! For example, RICKETY! (25A: Ready to collapse.) Pretty sure I've never seen this word in a puzzle and it's awesome. Also CURTSY (55A: Respectful gesture). That word is so good I'm not even mad that I initially entered salute. Hmmm .... I wonder if Orange has ever curtsied ....
- 10A: Singer Joan (JETT). Raise your hand if you entered Baez without even thinking about it.
- 14A: Ex-TV host Stewart (ALANA). Is this Rod Stewart's wife? She had a show? Wikipedia says she hosted a 1995 talk show with her first husband, George Hamilton. Sorry I missed that one.
- 18A: Speed Wagons, e.g. (REOS).
- 17A: Hear again (RETRY). This one tripped me up. This refers to a trial judge hearing a case.
- 41A: Nuts (over) (GAGA). I knew I was getting old when I would pick up the People magazine at the dentist's office and half the people in it were unrecognizable to me. Then there were these young women working in my office and I really didn't understand their shoes. And now there's Lady Gaga.
- 60A: "Bess, You Is My Woman," e.g. (ARIA). Tricky! Did you know that "Porgy and Bess" is an opera? Well, ya do now!
- 66A: Country singer Tucker (TANYA).
- 12D: Twitter message (TWEET). Twitter's slogan should be "Because you don't waste enough time online." Speaking of Twitter....
Everything Else — 1A: [Snore] (HO HUM); 6A: Blow hard (HUFF); 15A: River to the Mediterranean (EBRO); 16A: Guitarist's effect (WAWA); 22A: Flea market figure (SELLER); 24A: Tops with cups (BRAS); 29A: Old Mughal Empire capital (DELHI); 30A: Suffix with glob (-ULE); 31A: Blocks that lock (LEGOS); 33A: At the ready (ON TAP); 37A: Rash preventer (TALC); 39A: Like some checking accounts (NO-FEE); 42A: Word before radio or wave (SHOCK); 44A: "I dunno" ("GOT ME"); 46A: Mark, as a ballot (X IN); 47A: Shady retreat (ARBOR); 51A: Crow relatives (MAGPIES); 54A: Like Burbank City Hall, for short (DECO); 61A: Muskogee's st. (OKLA.); 63A: Heavy herbivore (RHINO); 64A: Suspense novelist Hoag (TAMI); 65A: Meddling (NOSY); 67A: Witnessed (SEEN); 68A: Muchas horas (DÍAS); 69A: Rile (up) (STEAM); 1D: Dwell (on) (HARP); 2D: Cheers at some World Cup games (OLÉS); 3D: "Hell __ no fury ..." (HATH); 5D: Like some elections (MAYORAL); 6D: Toast opening (HERE'S); 7D: Slangy prefix meaning "super" (UBER-); 8D: One way to sway (FRO); 9D: Dig discovery (FOSSIL); 11D: Apollo 11 module (EAGLE); 13D: Linger (TARRY); 21D: Unavailable (TAKEN); 23D: Return call? (ECHO); 25D: Pedometer button (RESET); 26D: Sounds of rebuke (TUTS); 27D: Eliciting a "So what?" (BLAH); 28D: Possible result of a job change, for short (RELO); 29D: Attend the needs of (DO FOR); 32D: "We Got the Beat" band, with "The" (GO-GOS); 34D: Part of a pickup line? (TAXI); 36D: Remorseful feeling (PANG); 40D: Cookout remnant (EMBER); 43D: Barbra's "A Star Is Born" costar (KRIS); 45D: Accompanists? (ESCORTS); 48D: Not within reach of (BEYOND); 50D: Signature wear for Astaire (TOP HAT); 52D: Surrounding glows (AURAE); 53D: Mr. Clean target (GRIME); 56D: "Casablanca" role (ILSA); 57D: Cabinet wood (PINE); 59D: Itinerate (ROAM); 62D: Colorful carp (KOI).