THEME: Seeing things — three theme answers all begin with IMAGINARY, DREAM, and FANTASY, respectively.
A solid if somewhat ARID Monday puzzle (14A: Like deserts). It's got a standard three-theme structure, with long answers all sharing a certain kind of opening word. The non-theme fill feels a bit phoned-in and sloppy. A bit too heavy on the abbrevs. (SYR, SSR, LTD, HMOS, FTS, STA, HDTV) and on the terminal-"S" words, the very worst of which is EENS (33D: Poetic dusks). EEN is sucktacular enough, pluralizing it just rubs salt in the would. And crossing SEEN TO?? Really, really bad. Actually, upon further reflection, SAYSOS might be worse (8D: Assertions) — though at least SAYSOS is loonily ambitious, unlike EENS, which is just execrable. My favorite thing about the grid is the segue of colloquial terms into each other at PEEK-A-BOO and OO LA LA. That's 11D: Game played with a baby over 42D: "Va va voom!" Silliness plus quadruple "O" = WIN. Otherwise, the whole thing's a big meh.
- 17A: Hobbes, to Calvin (IMAGINARY FRIEND)
- 35A: Ideal getaway (DREAM VACATION)
- 53A: Armchair quarterback's hobby (FANTASY FOOTBALL)
I like ISLET over FANTASY. It suggests a great name for a remake of a 70s television classic: "FANTASY ISLET." An ISLET is a small island, so maybe in the remake, Tattoo can be in charge and a sassy robot can play his assistant.
Crosswordese 101: STEN (50D: British machine gun) — I really thought I'd covered this answer before, but the Master List says otherwise. STEN is a word I learned nearly 20 years ago, when I was amassing my crosswordese body of knowledge under the harsh tutelage of the late NYT puzzle editor Eugene T. Maleska. EERO, ADIT, AMAH, ESNE, ERSE, EIRE, etc. Picked them all up through repeated exposure. The STEN is a 9mm submachine gun used by the British forces during WWII and Korean War. According to wikipedia, this is because they had a simple design and low production cost. STEN is also NETS backwards.
- 29A: Fashion's Gucci and actor Ray (ALDOS) — Really wish there were a famous place called "ALDO'S," because I hate plural names, esp. when those names aren't common. There was a pizza joint in my town when I was growing up called "ALDO'S." I think it's a gentleman's club now.
- 24D: Inlaid designs (MOSAICS) — really like it. One of the more colorful words of the day.
- 52D: Stodgy old-timer (FOGY) — NYT has GEEZER today, and the LAT has FOGY. Apparently it's "Mock Old People" day in puzzle world.
See you Friday,
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
Everything Else — 1A: Disappear gradually (FADE); 5A: Prohibition agent Eliot (NESS); 9A: Vatican-related (PAPAL); 14A: Like deserts (ARID); 15A: Heavenly bear (URSA); 16A: "__ you clever!" (AREN'T); 17A: Hobbes, to Calvin (IMAGINARY FRIEND); 20A: Motel restriction (NO PETS); 21A: T-bone, for one (STEAK); 22A: Lock of hair (TRESS); 23A: Med. plan choices (HMOS); 25A: Opposite of "Huh?" (AHA); 28A: Damascus is its cap. (SYR.); 29A: Fashion's Gucci and actor Ray (ALDOS); 31A: Nudge rudely (ELBOW); 33A: Makes a long story short? (EDITS); 34A: City leaders (MAYORS); 35A: Ideal getaway (DREAM VACATION); 38A: Taken care of (SEEN TO); 39A: "Rich Man, Poor Man" novelist Shaw (IRWIN); 40A: Give body to, as hair (TEASE); 41A: Obvious disdain (SCORN); 42A: Meditator's syllables (OMS); 45A: Calculate sums (ADD); 46A: Coarse file (RASP); 47A: Rub it in (GLOAT); 49A: Key in the sea (ISLET); 52A: Defective, as wiring (FAULTY); 53A: Armchair quarterback's hobby (FANTASY FOOTBALL); 57A: Change (ALTER); 58A: Summoned the butler (RANG); 59A: Peace Prize winner Wiesel (ELIE); 60A: Fair-haired (BLOND); 61A: Remain (STAY); 62A: Between-your-toes grains (SAND); 1D: Passes out (FAINTS); 2D: Weapons storehouse (ARMORY); 3D: Baby seat cover? (DIAPER); 4D: Pieces jigsaw puzzlers usually start with (EDGES); 5D: Convent residents (NUNS); 6D: Historical period (ERA); 7D: Kazakhstan, until 1991: Abbr. (SSR); 8D: Assertions (SAY SOS); 9D: Peel, as a rind (PARE); 10D: Opera highlight (ARIA); 11D: Game played with a baby (PEEK-A-BOO); 12D: "Raggedy" girl (ANN); 13D: Inc., in England (LTD.); 18D: Appointment-confirming words (IT'S A DATE); 19D: Dix and Knox: Abbr. (FTS.); 23D: Set with a sharper picture, briefly (HDTV); 24D: Inlaid designs (MOSAICS); 26D: Traffic jam honker (HORN); 27D: "Isn't that cute!" exclamations (AWS); 30D: Prom car (LIMO); 31D: Persistently worrying (EATING AT); 32D: "__ Eyes": 1975 Eagles hit (LYIN'); 33D: Poetic dusks (E'ENS); 34D: Bryn __ College (MAWR); 35D: Heroic exploit (DEED); 36D: Draw inferences from (READ INTO); 37D: Farm output (CROP); 38D: The bus stops here: Abbr. (STA.); 41D: Mythical man-goats (SATYRS); 42D: "Va va voom!" ("OO LA LA!"); 43D: Marlee __, Best Actress winner in "Children of a Lesser God" (MATLIN); 44D: Like fine coifs (STYLED); 46D: Notes after dos (RES); 48D: Garage jobs (LUBES); 50D: British machine gun (STEN); 51D: Baker's fat (LARD); 52D: Stodgy old-timer (FOGY); 53D: __ Four: Beatles (FAB); 54D: Every bit (ALL); 55D: Blubber (FAT); 56D: "__ scale of 1 to 10 ..." (ON A).