THEME: "How's About a Crazy Sandwich?"—Three phrases begin with words that can precede SANDWICH, but they might not all be familiar to you
This theme really threw me. The puzzle was easy enough, sure, and the SANDWICH clue, 70A: Lunch order that can follow the starts of 1-, 35- and 43-Across, was crystal clear. But the sandwiches! They hit my sweet spot a mere one third of the time.
- 1A: Bar mixer (CLUB SODA). We all know what a club sandwich is, right? Some sort of lunchmeat, maybe turkey, plus bacon, lettuce, and tomato on toast? Cut into cute little triangles?
- 35A: Jerusalem prayer site (WESTERN WALL). Neither PuzzleGirl nor I had ever heard of the Western sandwich. Professor Google tells me that first of all, a Denver omelet and a Western omelet are pretty much the same thing, and a Denver sandwich or a Western sandwich is that omelet smacked between a couple slices of toast. Ham, green peppers, and onions mixed into the eggs, if I recall correctly. I can't say I've ever seen this concoction on a diner menu in the Midwest.
- 43A: Unrestricted trading areas (OPEN MARKETS). OPEN MARKETS doesn't feel like a Monday-friendly entry, which helps account for why this is a Wednesday crossword. I hit the skids here, too, as I call 'em open-faced sandwiches rather than open sandwiches.
So that was a weird experience, finding two thirds of the theme entries to evoke jarringly unfamiliar entities. How awesome would it have been to have DAGWOOD BUMSTEAD as a theme entry relating to his famous skyscraper-height sandwiches?
Crosswordese 101: POLA!. Actresses who were big in the silent-movie era remain famous in crosswords thanks to nobody with the same name coming along later to eclipse their fame. Today, 37A: Negri of silents clues POLA. She was Polish (that's not her real name), and her accent was not a hit with audiences when talkies began, but before her fame waned, She dated Rudolph Valentino. In the Cruciverb.com database, every single clue for POLA includes the last name Negri, and the accompanying key words silent, film, and actress/star usually figure in somewhere too.
And now, a smattering of clues and their answers:
- 15A: Tangy dessert (LEMON PIE). I don't care for lemon desserts, frankly. Is LEMON PIE as common as lemon meringue pie?
- 17A: Sets free (UNLOOSES). UNLOOSES is a crazy word in that if you remove the UN- prefix...it still means the same thing.
- 18A: In the prior month (ULTIMO). I know this word from crosswords, but I haven't seen it used in the wild.
- 44D: Like Mr. America (MUSCLED). I think somebody's been hitting the steroids too much.
- 41A: Pelota catcher (CESTA). Jai alai! The ball thingamabob is the pelota, and the basket/racket catcher doodad is the CESTA. I hope you paid attention on July 7 when ALAI was the crosswordese of the day—the CESTA and pelota were mentioned in the comments by Charlie and Jet City Gambler. Thank them if that's how you learned CESTA!
- 59A: Community west of Montebello, Calif. (EAST L.A.). I've never heard of Montebello, but I'll bet the folks who buy the L.A. Times have.
- 69A: Groups of eight (OCTADS). In crosswords, it's rarely safe to plunk down OCTET. Work the crossings to see if OCTET or OCTAD will fit.
- 3D: Düsseldorf feature? (UMLAUT). The umlaut is the two-dots mark that can appear above a, o, and u in German.
- 10D: 1977 Bronson/Remick mind-control thriller (TELEFON). Speaking of German, TELEFON is the German word for "telephone." I don't remember the movie at all. This trailer features shootings, explosions, car chases, and throttling—no wonder my parents didn't take me to it when I was 11:
Everything Else — 9A: Long pace (STRIDE); 16A: Deceive (LEAD ON); 19A: Precisely (TO A T); 20A: Shrek, for one (OGRE); 22A: Beat overwhelmingly (CRUSH); 24A: Taxing mo.? (APR.); 25A: Title role for 13-Down (FATSO); 30A: Riled (up) (HET); 31A: Has much too much, briefly (ODS); 33A: Self-centered types (EGOISTS); 42A: Buck tail? (-AROO); 46A: Le Car maker (RENAULT); 47A: "Michael Collins" actor (REA); 48A: Spaniards roll theirs (ARS); 51A: Easy gaits (TROTS); 52A: UFO pilots, in theory (ETS); 54A: Discover with effort (DIG UP); 56A: Wild West showman (CODY); 58A: Edge (out) (NOSE); 63A: Unwavering (RESOLUTE); 67A: Bureau compartment (DRAWER); 68A: Like much of Rossini's work (OPERATIC); 1D: Shifting mechanism (CLUTCH); 2D: Lost love in "The Raven" (LENORE); 4D: Cowboy's footwear (BOOTS); 5D: __-cone (SNO); 6D: Brief photo sessions? (OPS); 7D: Craps cube (DIE); 8D: Man of many morals (AESOP); 9D: Disparaging remark (SLUR); 11D: Stoolie (RAT); 12D: First name in tyranny (IDI); 13D: Actor DeLuise (DOM); 14D: Rock producer Brian (ENO); 21D: Hosts, at times (GREETERS); 23D: "And __!": "Absolutely!" (HOW); 24D: Said positively (ASSERTED); 26D: Former Sanyo competitor (AIWA); 27D: Russian despot (TSAR); 28D: WWII French battle site (ST. LO); 29D: Nobel Peace Prize city (OSLO); 32D: Window sticker (DECAL); 34D: Prepare Parmesan (GRATE); 36D: "Mustn't do that" ("TSK!"); 37D: Computer connection (PORT); 38D: Letters near zero? (OPER); 39D: O'Brien's predecessor (LENO); 40D: Med school subj. (ANAT.); 45D: Melancholy (SAD); 48D: Rabbitlike rodent (AGOUTI); 49D: Backwoodsy (RUSTIC); 50D: Soapbox output (SPEECH); 53D: Greenhorns (TYROS); 55D: Marriage acquisition (IN-LAW); 57D: Propellers on ponds (OARS); 59D: Tokyo, once (EDO); 60D: Pendulum path (ARC); 61D: Met (SAT); 62D: Defunct flier (TWA); 64D: AQI user (EPA); 65D: One of a D.C. 100 (SEN.); 66D: Former Monterey Bay fort (ORD).