THEME: No theme today—Just a themeless Saturday puzzle
Kind of a weird-looking grid, isn't it? Having a bunch of discrete chunks of puzzle just barely connected to one another is typically a recipe for solver frustration, but this time, the clues are for those long Across answers are easy enough that you probably didn't have that tough a time moving from zone to zone. This one took me only a few seconds longer than the Friday puzzle, and I thought that was rather Wednesdayish. One great thing about easier Saturday puzzles is that they provide lovely encouragement to those who struggle with themeless puzzles. See? They're not always so formidable.
Crosswordese 101: We'll kick it old school today with a piece of crosswordese that seldom appears these days but has been a gimme for me for decades. You'll see it again at some point, I'm sure, and you won't be thrilled with it, but you'll be glad to be able to fill it in quickly if you plant it in your head today. The word is RETS, or 37D: Soaks, as flax. Let's say you have some flax and you want to make it into linen. I reckon you'll need to RET it, or soak it in water to soften and separate the fibers. Another insane old textile-related crosswordese verb is TAT, which has to do with making lace; we see that much less often now that TAT = short for "tattoo."
- 16A: Small program with a browser interface (JAVA APPLET). I love me a good JAVA APPLET, like the New York Times' proprietary crossword applet. I generally loathe the Flash interface, though, so I don't do the L.A. Times crossword on the paper's website; instead, I go to Cruciverb.com and fetch the Across Lite version.
- 18A: Long-distance messages? (SMOKE SIGNALS). Smoke Signals is also the title of a movie written by Sherman Alexie. Alexie (who likes crosswords!) has a young adult novel out called The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. It's a terrific read—I'm saving it for my son when he's a few years older.
- 25A: 1876 Twain hero (TOM SAWYER). Geddy Lee!
- 40A: Ice cream flavor (PISTACHIO). Me, I don't care for pistachios, but my husband and son like 'em.
- 46A: When Ovid's "Ars Amatoria" is believed to have been published isn't a dreaded Roman numeral clue after all. Surprise! It's ONE B.C. (Your Roman numeral R.D.A. for the day is provided instead by 3D: XXXI x V (CLV).
- 48A: Home of the NBA's Thunder (OKLAHOMA CITY). How many much bigger cities lack an NBA team and take the existence of the Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle Supersonics) as a personal affront? (Yes, I do believe that cities can take things personally. Don't you?) Speaking of Oklahoma, I'm pretty sure Rex knows this song the way I do—from the Sharper Image scene in When Harry Met Sally.
- 54A: Might achieve clues the four-word phrase HAS A SHOT AT. It looks goofy in the grid. HA! SASH O' TAT.
- I wish 59A: THIRTY-NINE had been clued as Jack Benny's forever age rather than 78 half. I suspect the clue was meant to mislead us into thinking of old 78 rpm records with A and B sides, but it ends up being a flat arithmetic problem of no import.
- 57D: Hot spot? is a spot of TEA.
Everything Else — 1A: Largest oceanic dolphin (ORCA); 5A: "__ consummation devoutly to be wish'd": Hamlet ('TIS A); 9A: Hi-tech battler (BOT); 12A: Wood finishing tool (BELT SANDER); 15A: Brooklyn, say, briefly (BORO); 17A: Surrealist Tanguy (YVES); 20A: Prepare for storage, as a carpet (ROLL UP); 23A: Barry who played Lt. Gerard on TV's "The Fugitive" (MORSE); 24A: "Rumor has it ..." ("I HEAR..."); 29A: Health insurance giant (CIGNA); 30A: Incredulous dying words (ET TU); 31A: It might involve a proxy fight (HOSTILE TAKEOVER); 38A: On (ATOP); 39A: Memory principle (MNEME); 45A: Minor, legally (PETIT); 47A: Notable show biz sisters (GABORS); 53A: Landing (PIER); 58A: Letter-bottom abbr. (ENCS); 60A: "Silent Spring" subj. (DDT); 61A: River to the Seine (OISE); 62A: Singer born Eithne Patricia NÌ Bhraon·in (ENYA); 1D: Part of a prepositional phr. (OBJ.); 2D: "The Crying Game" actor (REA); 4D: Obliquely (AT A SLANT); 5D: About 1/3 of Maine's I-95, e.g. (TNPK.); 6D: Hanging out, say (IDLE); 7D: Spies (SEES); 8D: Drawing intro (ART I); 9D: Flaubert heroine (BOVARY); 10D: Words implying consequences (OR ELSE); 11D: One pitching (TOSSER); 13D: Japanese warrior (SAMURAI); 14D: For one (A POP); 15D: Yet (BY NOW); 19D: Early ABC show, for short (GMA); 20D: Sumptuous (RICH); 21D: First state admitted to the Union from the Northwest Territory (OHIO); 22D: Longevity (LEGS); 25D: Saw things? (TEETH); 26D: Emperor who deposed Pope John XII (OTTO I); 27D: Mindanao peak: Abbr. (MT. APO); 28D: Czech composer Josef (SUK); 32D: Europe's __ de Genéve (LAC); 33D: Vicarious feeling (EMPATHY); 34D: Singly (ONE BY ONE); 35D: Nix (VETO); 36D: Qatar dignitary (EMIR); 40D: Exhausted (POOPED); 41D: How many Colonial debts were paid (IN KIND); 42D: Choose (SELECT); 43D: Slope contraptions (T-BARS); 44D: Bavarian beef? (ACH); 47D: Nub (GIST); 49D: "__ Be Back With You": Steve Forbert song (OH TO); 50D: Half a fish (MAHI); 51D: Just like that (AS IS); 52D: Supervision (CARE); 55D: Woodsman's makeup (TIN); 56D: At least one (ANY).