Theme: Boats! — Theme answers are words or phrases that end with a word for a type of boat.
- 17A: Salem trials crime (WITCHCRAFT).
- 57A: Press suppression (CENSORSHIP).
- 11D: Aorta, for one (BLOOD VESSEL).
- 25D: Shake things up (ROCK THE BOAT).
Crosswordese 101: Lots of crosswordese to choose from today, but much of it has been covered already: OSHA, ENA, ELI, PASHA, OLLA, and NÉE. So let's talk about the ELOI. We learn from today's puzzle that the ELOI are a [56A: Childlike race in "The Time Machine"], an 1895 novel by H. G. Wells. In addition to being childlike, they are blond and upper-class. They were victims of the "Morlocks" (possibly eaten by them? I don't know the book; I'm just getting my info from crossword clues). One of them is named Weena. Now you are completely prepared for the next time ELOI appears in a puzzle.
Look, I'm not proud of this and it doesn't make me happy to say so publicly, but I did not like this puzzle. In addition to all the crosswordese mentioned above, there were too many awkward prefixes and suffixes going on: e.g., ENHALO (49A: Surround, as with a circle of light), SPRYER (23A: More nimble), and LADLED (26A: Worked in a soup kitchen). AMT. for (3D: No. on a receipt) seemed completely off to me, even though the more I look at it the more it seems perfectly fine. We've got our new favorite pet peeve at 55D: Type of coach: Abbr. (ASST.). An ASST. isn't a type of coach; an ASST. COACH is a type of coach. We've got OLAY and OLÉS in the same puzzle (16A: Neutrogena rival / 20A: Shouts to a matador). The clue for ARKS includes the word vessels (36A: Clumsy vessels) even though that's part of a theme answer. Oh, and then there's this freakin' road I've never heard of (50D: Highway through the Yukon (ALCAN)). I assume Crosscan will be along any minute to inform me that's just my U.S. bias. Also to gloat about how fast he's getting.
If you got tripped up at all during your solve, I'm going to guess it was at one or more of these words:
- 14A: Ancient people of south-central Mexico (OLMEC). Learned it from crosswords.
- 38A: Jeweler's glass (LOUPE). Waaaay back in the cobwebs somewhere.
- 62A: Smelter's waste (SLAG). Learned it from crosswords.
- 9D: Square dance group (OCTAD). You wanted octet, didn't you?
So. Was there anything to like about this puzzle? Well sure!
- 21A: Convertibles, slangily (RAGTOPS). I had never heard this term until Tim McGraw's song "Red Ragtop" came out in 2002. Although I love Tim McGraw, I'm not a fan of that song, so I won't make you listen to it.
- 28A: "Our Gang" dog (PETEY). As far as old-timey dogs go, Petey is way cooler than Tige. I don't even know how to pronounce Tige.
- 67A: Bit of casino action (WAGER). WAGER is a much cooler word than bet.
- 4D: Fake drake, e.g. (DECOY). I used to work for a guy whose first name was Mallard. True story.
- 5D: Hauls with effort (SCHLEPS). The Yiddish is always welcome.
- 18D: Trix and Kix (CEREALS).
- 35D: "The Munsters" actress Yvonne (DE CARLO). Wasn't 100% sure on the spelling and, in fact, I'm pretty sure I pictured Carolyn Jones here instead of Yvonne De Carlo.
- 37D: Galas (SHINDIGS). Now that's a good word. Next party I have is going to be billed as a SHINDIG. Do you think I'll need better food? Or something?