THEME: Talk like a vampire ... — "W" sound changed to "V" sound in first words of common phrases, resulting in wacky new phrases, clued "?"-style
Dan Naddor is prolific, and his stuff is pretty solid, but I feel like his grids are becoming very predictable. I knew who the constructor of this was without ever looking at the credit. Lots of theme answers united by letter/sound change. Wackiness abounds. True, lots of folks do that, but I have this feeling he has a master list of 100s of these types of gimmicks that he's just working his way through, cranking them out in high volume (no one appears in LAT more). There's nothing wrong with the grids, which are almost always well constructed. But ... seems like his work should be getting more imaginative and artful, instead of predictable and workmanlike.
LAT Difficulty Watch: Late-week puzzles remain alarmingly easy. This puzzle took me less than 4 minutes. Compare with today's NYT, which took me an eternity.
Musical interlude: POLKA! (17A: Oktoberfest dance)
- 18A: Seat for eating scaloppine? (VEAL chair)
- 23A: Tool for a dueling snake? (VIPER blade)
- 36A: What Tarzan became after years of swinging? (VINE connoisseur)
- 49A: Egotistical describer of laws of motion? (VAIN Newton)
- 55A: Paleontologist's ski resort discoveries? (VAIL bones)
All these allegedly wacky clues need real help to make them funny / entertaining / snappy. Oddly literal, as clues for wacky phrases go. Where the non-theme fill is concerned — loved SLOW POKE (39D: Hardly a speed demon), but did not love NEON TETRA (33D: Aquarium fish with an iridescent stripe), which felt a bit desperate. TETRA is crosswordese, and this longer form didn't please me much more than the short form would have. I like HOSNI (5A: Egypt's Mubarak), as it used to be one of the many pet names I had for my cat, who now seems to get called just "Mr. Wiles" or "Señor Wiles." When I lived alone, when it was just him and me ... man, did he have names. I remember calling him "Zubin Mehta" for a while. I have no idea why.
Crosswordese 101: NACRE (14D: Mother-of-pearl) — the definition pretty much says it all. As answers.com says, NACRE is "The pearly internal layer of certain mollusk shells, used to make decorative objects." I find it to be a particularly ugly word; it's like NASAL and CANKER had a baby. Yuck. See also OCHRE(S) (27A: Earth tones). "RE" endings are for a. the British and b. the French. SUCRE I can handle. Filthy LUCRE. No. Gross.
- 43A: Sykora of the NHL (Petr) — If I didn't watch ESPN, I might have thought "WTF!?"
- 20A: Speaker's stand (lectern) — turns out I (still?) can't spell this. LECTURN, anyone?
- 41A: Madison's neat roomie (Unger) — I object to the cutesy "roomie." Also, I am an idiot and neglected the parallel construction rule — wrote in FELIX.
- 38D: Airing in prime time (on TV) — airing ANY time, actually.
See you Monday
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Everything Else — 1A: Seawater component, to a chemist (NACL); 5A: Egypt's Mubarak (HOSNI); 10A: Adriatic Sea country: Abbr. (ALB.); 13A: "In other words ..." ("I MEAN ..."); 15A: Decide to participate (OPT IN); 16A: "You stink!" ("BOO!"); 17A: Oktoberfest dance (POLKA); 18A: Seat for eating scaloppine? (VEALCHAIR); 20A: Speaker's stand (LECTERN); 22A: Blue Cross competitor (AETNA); 23A: Tool for a dueling snake? (VIPER BLADE); 26A: Home of the witch who melted (WEST); 27A: Earth tones (OCHRES); 28A: Newspaper ad meas. (SQ. IN.); 30A: Sainted fifth-century pope (LEO I); 31A: Playfully (IN FUN); 33A: Org. once headed by Heston (NRA); 36A: What Tarzan became after years of swinging? (VINE CONNOISSEUR); 40A: Half and half (ONE); 41A: Madison's neat roomie (UNGER); 42A: Bottom-line negative (LOSS); 43A: Sykora of the NHL (PETR); 44A: "The Tempest" king (ALONSO); 46A: Facts and figures (DATA); 49A: Egotistical describer of laws of motion? (VAIN NEWTON); 52A: Month for fools? (APRIL); 54A: Uranium-238, e.g. (ISOTOPE); 55A: Paleontologist's ski resort discoveries? (VAIL BONES); 57A: "Au contraire!" ("NOT SO!"); 60A: Nest egg item, briefly (IRA); 61A: Cheri of "SNL" (OTERI); 62A: Firestone Country Club city (AKRON); 63A: Arch site: Abbr. (STL); 64A: Passover meal (SEDER); 65A: Home of the witch buried under a fallen house (EAST); 1D: Chill in the air (NIP); 2D: Latin 101 verb (AMO); 3D: Texting device (CELLPHONE); 4D: View from Cleveland (LAKE ERIE); 5D: Shack (HOVEL); 6D: "The Barber of Seville," e.g. (OPERA); 7D: Represents (STANDS FOR); 8D: Zilch (NIL); 9D: Peruvian ancestor (INCA); 10D: Taper off (ABATE); 11D: Tender beef cuts (LOINS); 12D: Sacha Baron Cohen title character (BORAT); 14D: Mother-of-pearl (NACRE); 19D: Axed (HEWN); 21D: Atlanta-based sta. (TBS); 23D: Saab competitor (VOLVO); 24D: Trap during a winter storm, maybe (ICE IN); 25D: Prefix with distant (EQUI-); 29D: 22-Acr. business (INS.); 31D: Deep-rooted (INGRAINED); 32D: Miami-to-N.Y. dir. (NNE); 33D: Aquarium fish with an iridescent stripe (NEON TETRA); 34D: Rene of "Ransom" (RUSSO); 35D: Burning desire? (ARSON); 37D: Stick in a parlor (CUE); 38D: Airing in prime time, say (ON TV); 39D: Hardly a speed demon (SLOWPOKE); 43D: Tot's beach toy (PAIL); 44D: Bad picnic omen (ANT); 45D: Hotelier Helmsley (LEONA); 46D: Lincoln's Confederate counterpart (DAVIS); 47D: Separately (APART); 48D: Court case (TRIAL); 50D: Grenoble's river (ISERE); 51D: Boot camp negative (NO SIR); 53D: Debt-laden corp. takeovers (LBOS); 56D: Suffix with Capri (-OTE); 58D: Mariner's "Help!" (SOS); 59D: Que. neighbor (ONT.).