Theme: ALFRED HITCHCOCK — 7D: Born 8/13/1899, he directed the answers to the starred clues.
- 21A: *Very difficult task, in slang (MURDER).
- 29A: *Aristophanes comedy (THE BIRDS).
- 38A: *You may be picked up if you're under it (SUSPICION).
- 49A: *Music to an interrogator's ears (I CONFESS).
- 57A: *Loony (PSYCHO).
- 12D: *Sunnybrook Farm girl (REBECCA).
- 41D: *Dizziness (VERTIGO).
- 51D/13D: Something 7-Down is famous for, which is symbolically depicted in circled squares where the director's name briefly passes through five of his movies (CAMEO SCENE).
Very ambitious theme today! And I think it was pulled off very well. Lots of three-letter words were required to make the grid work, but only three of them were clued as abbreviations, so that's pretty good. The only real clunker of the whole puzzle was SLEETY (70A: Like some icy weather) and I'm totally willing to overlook it since the rest of the puzzle is so smooth. (Except that, of course, I didn't overlook it, I brought it up here in the blog, but hey! that's what we do here: bring up stuff that we overlook to let you know we're overlooking it.)
At first, I wasn't completely thrilled with CAMEO SCENE. I think cameo appearance or cameo role (or even just plain old cameo) is in-the-language while CAMEO SCENE isn't. But, you know what? Hitchcock was famous for putting himself in scenes of his films and I think in this particular case, I can be talked into calling them CAMEO SCENEs. Only for him though. Sometimes you just need to put your foot down and I just did.
Oh yeah, one more small gripe. I solved this puzzle while watching Rachel Maddow so I wasn't completely focused on it. When I entered ALFRED HITCHCOCK, I assumed the circled letters were ... something, and I would figure it out later when I could give it my full attention. Personally, I think I would have gone without the circles. But that might not totally be fair for people relatively new to crossword puzzles, so let me know what you think about that. Also, since his name didn't go through VERTIGO and REBECCA, I might have clued those as non-theme-related and made them a little inside joke. Kind of a cameo if you will. But maybe that's just crazy. I don't know. These are the things I think about! Aren't you glad you don't have to live in my brain!
Real quick funny story about VERTIGO. I was having mild dizzy spells several years ago. Nothing really traumatic, but enough that I thought I better have a doctor take a look. I don't remember why I had a bunch of red tape to go through, but for some reason I did, and I remember talking to a young woman at the check-out desk and she asked me what I had been seen for. I said "vertigo." She looked at me like she had no idea what I was talking about. So I said, "Vertigo. You know, dizziness." She's all, "Oh, dizziness! Yeah, that's what we call it." Alrighty then!
Okay, one more thing. (I really feel like I'm rambling today.) These are the Hitchcock movies I've seen: Dial M for Murder, The Birds, Rear Window, Rope, and North by Northwest. I've probably seen bits and pieces of others, but those are the only ones I've watched all the way through. I've never seen Psycho! How is that possible?! Well, it's probably because I found The Birds utterly and completely terrifying, so I decided Psycho would be too much for me.
- 17A: Infant who succeeded Russia's Empress Anna in 1740 (IVAN VI). Got it from crosses. Sounds like it might be an interesting story though.
- 26A: Freelancer's encl. (SAE). Self-addressed envelope.
- 33A: Sans opposite (AVEC). French!
- 37A: Educator LeShan (EDA). I always think Ada and Ida first. But it's always Eda.
- 51A: Pressing issue? (CREASE). Ironing!
- 62A: Seesaw need (TWO). Also, the tango.
- 69A: Indus R. country (PAK.). The R. in this clue really threw me off. Until — d'oh! — it's for River. The Indus River. One day I'm going to learn my rivers and clues like this won't confuse me.
- 3D: Full of, with "with" (FRAUGHT). Excellent word! Don't think I've ever seen it in a puzzle before.
- 9D: Political hot button (DEATH PANEL). Of course I'm kidding. It's really TAXES.
- 30D: "Chico and the Man" setting, briefly (EAST L.A.). Here's the problem with clues that reference shows like this from my childhood. I get sucked into the black hole of YouTube and it's very difficult to make my way out. I start watching all the great theme songs: Barney Miller, Welcome Back Kotter, Sanford & Son. Then I see there are clips from those shows available and that's it. I'm pretty much done for the day. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a "Chico and the Man" clip that I thought was really really good, so I'll leave you with this.
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Everything Else — 1A: Toto's two? (ARF ARF); 7A: PC key next to the space bar (ALT); 10A: Needle bearers (FIRS); 14A: Soap opera, e.g. (SERIAL); 15A: Grassland (LEA); 16A: Certain util. (ELEC.); 18A: Interoffice memo, maybe (FAX); 20A: Fifth bk. of the Torah (DEUT.); 24A: Gazzara or Stiller (BEN); 27A: Seldom seen (SCARCE); 34A: Clinton's department (STATE); 35A: Towel word (HIS); 41A: Chocolate-making vessel (VAT); 43A: Chocolate lover, often (TOT); 44A: Fetch (GO GET); 53A: Bunny __ (HOP); 54A: "Fantasia" frame (CEL); 56A: Words with distance (AT A); 59A: Ale designation (PALE); 60A: "La Bohème" heroine (MIMI); 63A: Intervene (STEP IN); 65A: "Omigosh!" ("EGAD!"); 66A: Vocation: Abbr. (OCC.); 67A: Hire (TAKE ON); 68A: "It slipped!" ("OOPS!"); 1D: Lateral remark (ASIDE); 2D: Goes back (to) (REVERTS); 4D: "__ She Sweet" (AIN'T); 5D: Toyota __4: SUV model (RAV); 6D: Like the worst excuse (FLIMSIEST); 8D: X-ray vision thwarter (LEAD); 10D: ATM __ (FEE); 11D: Lacking social graces (ILL-BRED); 22D: Old Mideast org. (UAR); 23D: Color TV pioneer (RCA); 28D: Vindicate (AVENGE); 31D: Heat unit, briefly (BTU); 32D: [error left as is] (SIC); 36D: Turnpike features (SIGN POSTS); 39D: Pasty Hawaiian staple (POI); 40D: Gut-punch reaction (OOF); 42D: Local cartographer's creation (AREA MAP); 45D: Reason for a search party (ESCAPEE); 46D: "Four Quartets" poet (T. S. ELIOT); 48D: Uncommon sense? (ESP); 50D: "Wow!" ("OOH!"); 52D: Legally prohibit (ESTOP); 55D: Controversial Bruce (LENNY); 58D: Fem. advocacy group (YWCA); 59D: Chinese toy (PEKE); 61D: Fingers (ID'S); 64D: 1960-'61 chess champ Mikhail (TAL).