THEME: No theme today—Just a themeless Saturday puzzle
Wow, this was among the easiest themeless puzzles I've ever done. It took me about as long as a Wednesday crossword that's on the easy side (three minutes flat, which is not what I expect on Saturday), so that's saying something.
Now, if you were feeling proud of yourself because you had to fight through this puzzle, please don't feel that your accomplishment is diminished just because someone who has a collection of crossword tournament trophies calls it an easy crossword. Every puzzle you complete makes you one skosh better at doing crosswords—and you can still tell people "Oh, yes, the Saturday crossword is the week's hardest"—usually that's true—"and I do love to work it."
I worked an advance copy of the puzzle in Across Lite, and there's an error in the solution that I hope will have been fixed by the time the puzzle is published and made available online. My puzzle file wants a D where 5A: Snake with a puff variety meets 9D: ACLU concerns, and those are a puff ADDER and rights, abbreviated as RTS. There is no "puff added" (though that phrase should appear on packages of cotton candy), and the ACLU does not customarily concern itself with delirium tremens.
Crosswordese 101: Some crosswordese words are made by tacking on a prefix (like RE-) or suffix (-ER) to form a word that can legitimately be called a word by dictionary standards, or pluralizing something that nobody needs a plural for. Such words often don't get free-standing entries in the dictionary, but pretty much any verb can get the -ER treatment. Today we have a RUER. This is clued as 16A: One with regrets, but have you ever described someone as a RUER? Of course not. But just because it's not a word you'd ever use doesn't mean you can expect not to see it in a crossword. These words are probably more common in themeless puzzles (here, RUER facilitates the sandwiching of three eight-letter words) or in a puzzle with an unusual theme density. So be on the lookout for unfamiliar RE- and -ER sorts of words, because you never know when they'll strike.
There is little to be gained by complaining about such fill, but we do it anyway in the hope that it will make constructors work a little bit harder to try to root out such fill. (Would it have been better to cross Leopold AUER and Maz BAER, or use RUER crossing BRER? Generally, crossing unfamiliar names with other names is frowned on. I like the eights that RUER crosses, so I won't kvetch about its inclusion today. But a roll-your-own word used where something better could be substituted? Meh.)
My favorite fake example of what I call a "roll-your-own word" is REAMUSERS. Can you re-amuse someone after amusing them? (Nobody uses "re-amuse.") Is a comedians an amuser? (Hardly anyone uses "amuser.") Could multiple people who make you laugh over and over be REAMUSERS? Sure. I want to put that in a joke crossword some day.
- 14A: Become equitable in the long run (AVERAGE OUT). Not the zippiest phrase in the language, but it's colloquial and reflects English the way we speak it.
- 26A: Show featuring agents 86 and 99 (GET SMART). I never, ever saw the TV show, and I've only seen a portion of the Steve Carell movie. Did I miss much? I know about the shoe phone.
- 32A: "See?!" ("WHAT DID I TELL YOU?!"). Now, that's awesome. I love it when the puzzle speaks to me in exclamations.
- 54A: 2002 film for which Adrien Brody won a Best Actor Oscar (THE PIANIST). And then he inappropriately smooched Oscar presenter Halle Berry, who did not give up her bodily autonomy just because he thinks she's swell. (Hmph!) I always hear that movie title as "The Penis." Anyone else have that problem? No? Just me?
- 7D: "Sound familiar?" ("DOES IT RING A BELL?"). I kinda feel like "Does that ring a bell?" is a bit more natural-sounding. The it question puts me in mind of the "Will It Blend?" videos. Have you seen these? They're captivating, and there are dozens of them.
- 13D: H.G. Wells's island researcher (DR. MOREAU). Didn't South Park have a Marlon Brando/Dr. Moreau character with a bunch of mutant animal combos?
- 27D: Sargent portrait of a mysterious Frenchwoman (MADAME X). Even if you don't know the painting in question, you really can't complain about fine arts content in a Saturday crossword. The Saturday puzzle should challenge, entertain, and expand our knowledge base.
Everything Else — 1A: Absorbed (RAPT); 10A: Shakespeare's Avon calling? (BARD); 17A: Remote measuring devices (TELEMETERS); 18A: Cheese coated in red paraffin (EDAM); 19A: China's Zhou __ (ENLAI); 20A: That, in Madrid (ESO); 21A: Museum in Madrid (PRADO); 22A: "Tea for Two" for two, e.g. (DUET); 23A: Country singer Yearwood (TRISHA); 25A: Geometric fig. (CIR.); 28A: Web search tool (ENGINE); 30A: Lumberjack, at times (AXER); 31A: 1980s-'90s Buick sports car (REATTA); 37A: 1993-2001 White House maiden name (RODHAM); 38A: Symbol on a staff (NOTE); 39A: Like most piano technician services (IN-HOME); 40A: Football setting (GRIDIRON); 45A: Peg under a dimpled ball (TEE); 46A: Legal term that's French for "on a bench" (EN BANC); 48A: Sushi wrapper (NORI); 49A: Chelmsford's county (ESSEX); 51A: Blood typing letters (ABO); 52A: Photons' family, in physics (BOSON); 53A: Elec. supplier (UTIL.); 56A: Ruse (PLOY); 57A: Used car dealer's spiel, say (SALES PITCH); 58A: Dict. offerings (SYNS.); 59A: Clay bakers (KILNS); 60A: Southwestern art colony town (TAOS); 1D: OK for kids, filmwise (RATED G); 2D: Michigan in Chicago, e.g. (AVENUE); 3D: Bit of buckshot (PELLET); 4D: Dog training aids (TREATS); 5D: Time of your life (AGE); 6D: Checked (DETERRED); 8D: Continental currency (EUROS); 10D: Rabbit or Bear's title (BRER); 11D: Gall (AUDACITY); 12D: Interpret by inference (READ INTO); 15D: "__ losing it?" (AM I); 21D: Like some den walls (PANELED); 23D: Cabbies in Canterbury (TAXIMEN); 24D: One seriously straying from the flock? (HERETIC); 29D: Guy's partner (GAL); 32D: Newspaper accounts (WRITEUPS); 33D: With no deception (HONESTLY); 34D: Bonding (ADHESION); 35D: Even if, informally (THO); 36D: Like gift wrap on Christmas morning (TORN OPEN); 41D: Like con artists' shills, e.g. (IN ON IT); 42D: Bilingual Muppet (ROSITA); 43D: Pitcher Jesse, who had the most career appearances (OROSCO); 44D: Final innings (NINTHS); 47D: Mideast religion that preaches equality (BAHAI); 50D: Bridge expert Culbertson et al. (ELYS); 52D: "Southern" relig. (BAP.); 54D: "For shame!" ("TSK!"); 55D: Unit of Time: Abbr. (ISS.).