THEME: "Level With Me"—Four phrases end with words that can precede level in familiar phrases
This puzzle's got a theme that isn't super-obvious (at least, not until you hit LEVEL at 64A), and then there's all manner of gnarly fill, even some words that are unfamiliar to long-time solvers. There wasn't much here that was light and amusing, but plenty to chew on (if not break your teeth on).
- 20A: Not give an inch (STAND ONE'S GROUND). You want to get in on this swampland deal on the ground level? I know some people. I'll put you in touch.
- 27A: Garage door gadget (ELECTRIC EYE). Put your sign at eye level if you want people to read it.
- 47A: Dairy Queen treat (BANANA SPLIT). I grew up in a split-level house.
- 53A: Solar or wind power, e.g. (RENEWABLE ENERGY). How's your energy level right now?
Oh, gee, PuzzleGirl already covered OGEE (7D: S-shaped molding) a month ago. So for today's Crosswordese 101: ET TU, or 11D: Brute question? In Julius Caesar, Caesar's last words were "Et tu, Brute?"—basically "You too, Brutus? Oy! I thought you were my friend." If the space has 4 letters and the clue mentions Caesar (but not his boast, which is "Veni, vidi, vici"), Brute or Brutus, the Ides of March, a rebuke to a traitor, or words in a Senate, suspect ET TU.
Among the more troublesome spots:
- 16A: Comedian Fields (TOTIE). I know this name only from crosswords. Is Totie male or female?
- 17A: Auburn color named for a painter (TITIAN RED). If you've taken a painting class, you might know that one. Or if you buy auburn hair color. The color is named for the hair color in Titian's Mary Magdalene painting.
- 22A: Tomcat (GIB). Whazzat? Huh? This one is not common, not even in crosswords.
- 23A: Vegas job: Abbr. (DLR.). Not a common abbreviation, is it?
- 37A: Ship's post that secures cables (BITT). W-w-wait, what? I've seen GIB before, but this one is entirely new to me. Nautical terminology is generally one of my least favorite sources of crossword fill. Depicted here is a pair of angled BITTs.
- 21D: East Berlin's land, initially (GDR). If you're young, do you know this? The German Democratic Republic was the "yeah, right" name for East Germany. Totally democratic! Now, about that wall...
- 43D: One claiming to have the answers (KNOW-ALL). Say what? I know know-it-all, but without the it, it doesn't ring a bell.
- 54D: Irving Bacheller's "__ Holden" (EBEN). Who? What? Bacheller's novel was the 4th bestselling novel in the United States in 1900, and yet who among us has heard of it?
- 60D: Growl (GNAR). This word always throws people when it shows up in the crossword. Make a mental note of it, because it'll be back.
- 61D: Demented blacksmith in "Son of Frankenstein" (YGOR). Not Igor, YGOR. Yes, I started with IGOR here. Son of Frankenstein: 1939, Basil Rathbone. I'll bet Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein is funnier:
Everything Else — 1A: Hamas-controlled strip (GAZA); 5A: Supply-and-demand subj. (ECON.); 9A: Dog attractor (SMELL); 14A: TV host Trebek (ALEX); 15A: Aborted, at NASA (NO-GO); 19A: When many coffee breaks occur (AT TEN); 22A: Tomcat (GIB); 23A: Vegas job: Abbr. (DLR.); 24A: Bring home (NET); 34A: Clay, since 1964 (ALI); 35A: Four: Pref. (TETRA-); 36A: Like most income (TAXED); 39A: Phonies (SHAMS); 41A: Mailroom stamp ltrs. (RECD); 42A: __ Mountains: central U.S. range (OZARK); 44A: Passes over (OMITS); 46A: Third-century date (CCI); 49A: Bear lead-in (SHE); 50A: Tenn. athlete (VOL); 51A: NASA moon craft (LEM); 62A: "The Hot Zone" virus (EBOLA); 63A: Antique work (RESTORING); 64A: It can follow the last word of 20-, 27-, 47- and 53-across (LEVEL); 65A: Japan is in it, with "the" (EAST); 66A: Golfer Aoki (ISAO); 67A: Hair woe (SNARL); 68A: Smack ending (-EROO); 69A: Okla. or La., once (TERR.); 1D: Hoods' guns (GATS); 2D: Landed (ALIT); 3D: Epsilon follower (ZETA); 4D: Pink-slipping (AXING); 5D: Elevates in rank (ENNOBLES); 6D: Cooking oil source (CORN); 8D: Unspoken okays (NODS); 9D: Twinkly at night (STARLIT); 10D: British wheels (MOTORCAR); 12D: Security interest (LIEN); 13D: Advance (LEND); 18D: On __: trying to lose (A DIET); 24D: Fat cat (NABOB); 25D: "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" singer (ELIZA); 26D: Industry bigwig (TITAN); 28D: Cultural spirit (ETHOS); 29D: Writer's woe (CRAMP); 30D: Sri Lankan language (TAMIL); 31D: Industry bigwigs (EXECS); 32D: "Ick factor 10!" ("YECCH!"); 33D: Rocker Van Halen (EDDIE); 38D: One with an itinerary (TRAVELER); 40D: Type of heel (STILETTO); 45D: Court worker (STENO); 48D: __ mode (A LA); 52D: Earn (MERIT); 53D: Aunts and uncles: Abbr. (RELS.); 55D: PBS science show (NOVA); 56D: Marcia's "Desperate Housewives" role (BREE); 57D: Jet-setter's jet (LEAR); 58D: Old U.S. gas (ESSO); 59D: Stand (RISE);