THEME: UP, UP, AND AWAY — three theme answers begin with "UP," "UP," and "AND AWAY," respectively.
Not much to this one. I expected somewhat spicier / interesting fill given how little theme coverage there is, but it's Monday, so I don't know why I get hopes up. It's always disappointing to me when the long Downs in an unrestricted grid like this don't pop and dance. Today, I love ON THE LAM (9D: Like an escapee), but the long Downs are blah. Oh, unless you count ODE TO JOY as a long Down (which at 8, I guess it is) (39D: Poem used in Beethoven's "Choral Symphony"). That answer is aces. That's how you handle a "J" — block it at the front end so it starts an answer. Otherwise you can get very screwed very fast, and will likely have to rely on foreign words or abbrevs. "J"s are always happiest at the beginnings of words. Scrabbly letters are divas and you have to manage them, because they will bring down the whole show in a hurry if you don't. Your options for moving forward with a grid often narrow down quickly when you bring the Xs, Qs, and Zs of this world out to play. Can you tell I spent the entire weekend constructing? I am dreaming in grids now. It's not the greatest feeling. But I did get two puzzles done and I'm half way thru a Sunday-sized one, so though I feel a bit strung out, at least I was productive.
- 21A: Capable of doing a job (UP TO THE TASK)
- 37A: Next in line to advance at work (UP FOR A PROMOTION) — this answer bugged me the most, as the phrase, as I hear it in my head, is UP FOR PROMOTION. "I'm UP FOR PROMOTION." The "A" tripped me, as I typed out my answer and still had one letter left over and couldn't figure out what I did wrong.
- 48A: Jackie Gleason catchprase ("AND AWAY we go!")
Crosswordese 101: ELKO (61A: Northern Nevada town) — I have great affection for said town, as I drove through it once on a cross-country trip with my sister twenty years ago. I've told the story of our misadventures elsewhere. We ended up in WELLS, NV, which you will never, ever see clued as a [Northern Nevada town]. I used ELKO in the first puzzle I ever showed to the public — last year's Vice Presidential debate-themed puzzle "Don't Blink" (which you can get at my NYT website, co-written with PG, edited by Orange). We actually clued it as "city." Well, insofar as any place with just 16K inhabitants can be called a "city," sure, it's a city. ELKO is important in the history of railroads and the mail system (read here), and is the site of the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, according to Wikipedia. Most of the time, it's a place for people to gamble and sleep with hookers (legal prostitutes, "active brothels").
See you Friday,
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
Everything Else —