THEME: KEY (65D: Computer feature that ends each of the five longest across answers) — theme answers end with ENTER, TAB, ESCAPE, CONTROL, and SHIFT, respectively
First thought: seen it. Multiple times. Let's retire this theme starting ... now. Next thought: it's a very competent Monday puzzle, with cluing that (finally) starts to return to the kind of liveliness that I expect from a major daily crossword puzzle. No reason your puzzle can't be easy (which this was) and still be interesting at the level of both clues and answers. NO MEANS OF ESCAPE is kind of long and unwieldy for a theme answer (prefer tight, clearly self-standing phrases like FIRE ESCAPE or NARROW ESCAPE), but otherwise the theme is nicely executed. UNWOVEN = ??? (27D: Not made of interlaced parts, as fabric) It's the linchpin answer (the Down that holds three different theme answers in place — these theme-spanners tend to go in early in the construction process and are often the place where the constructor is most limited in terms of fill options). It's not a great word, in that I couldn't use it effectively in a sentence, but I've seen worse. I have a puzzle (forthcoming in a book) that used a Much worse linchpin answer. Thankfully, it's by far the worst thing in that grid, and only four letters long. Thus, I hope, forgivable.
- 17A: "Keep out" sign ("DO NOT ENTER")
- 24A: Pay for everyone's dinner (PICK UP THE TAB)
- 40A: "All exits are blocked" situation (NO MEANS OF ESCAPE) — is "NO MEANS" parallel to "situation" ... feels quite off.
- 50A: Throng management (CROWD CONTROL)
- 62A: Four-on-the-floor, e.g. (STICK SHIFT) — I miss mine. I went from STICK SHIFT Pathfinder to automatic Volvo wagon. Next car will most certain be some kind of midlifecrisismobile. Turning 40 in November, so said mobile might be in my near future.
Crosswordese 101: CASCA (52D: One of Caesar's assassins) — was going to go with ODER or SLUE, but they've both been covered. CASCA is a guy I learned about from xwords, which is weird because I teach Dante's "Inferno" every year and at the bottom of hell, being CHOMPed (50D: Bite vigorously) in Satan's mouth, are two of Caesar's assassins, *neither* of them named CASCA (Brutus and Cassius, to be specific). Plutarch claims that CASCA was the first to strike Caesar with a dagger. Way to show initiative! He's a character in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" and has been played on screen by Robert Vaughan and Edmond O'Brien, whom I know best as the undercover agent in "White Heat" (1949) — "I'm on top of the world, ma!"
- 1A: "Overhead" engine parts (cams) — know very little about engines but got this instantly.
- 15A: Between, quaintly ('twixt) — brain wanted only 'TWEEN :(
- 21A: Coll. major for a future concert artist (mus.) — hate this abbrev. Also hate that "Musical" is in the clues (1D: Musical finale => CODA). Someday I will clue MUS like this: [Omega _____: members of a "Revenge of the Nerds" sorority]
- 54A: Witchy woman (hag) — first, not all HAGs are witches. Second, not all witches are ugly. Third, this clue is also the title of an Eagles song:
- 25D: Traveling show worker (carny) — an inherently great word.
See you Friday.
Everything Else — 1A: "Overhead" engine parts (CAMS); 5A: Shoe undersides (SOLES); 10A: __ the lily: ornament to excess (GILD); 14A: Doing the job (ON IT); 15A: Between, quaintly (TWIXT); 16A: There oughta be one, so it's said (A LAW); 17A: "Keep out" sign (DO NOT ENTER); 19A: Turn on a pivot (SLUE); 20A: Jungian feminine principle (ANIMA); 21A: Coll. major for a future concert artist (MUS.); 23A: Anger (IRE); 24A: Pay for everyone's dinner (PICK UP THE TAB); 29A: Lively Irish dance (JIG); 32A: Peter, Paul or Mary (SAINT); 33A: Not shut, in verse (OPE); 34A: German river (ODER); 36A: Like a cold, damp day (RAW); 37A: Type of notebook (SPIRAL); 40A: "All exits are blocked" situation (NO MEANS OF ESCAPE); 43A: Shiny photo (GLOSSY); 44A: Delivery vehicle (VAN); 45A: WWII submachine gun (STEN); 46A: Floral welcome (LEI); 47A: Mexican money (PESOS); 49A: Mag. staffers (EDS.); 50A: Throng management (CROWD CONTROL); 54A: Witchy woman (HAG); 55A: Place for a ring (EAR); 56A: On-the-job reward (BONUS); 60A: Norse war god (ODIN); 62A: Four-on-the-floor, e.g. (STICK SHIFT); 66A: Atomizer output (MIST); 67A: Division of society (CASTE); 68A: Sunscreen ingredient, perhaps (ALOE); 69A: __ helmet: safari wear (PITH); 70A: Ease, as fears (ALLAY); 71A: Home on a limb (NEST); 1D: Musical finale (CODA); 2D: Soon, to a bard (ANON); 3D: Short skirt (MINI); 4D: Defeat decisively (STOMP); 5D: Sault __ Marie (STE.); 6D: Possess (OWN); 7D: On, as a lamp (LIT); 8D: Like churches, vis-à-vis most taxes (EXEMPT); 9D: Rooster's gait (STRUT); 10D: Tank filler (GAS); 11D: Unable to read (ILLITERATE); 12D: First lady before Michelle (LAURA); 13D: Dork (DWEEB); 18D: Mai __: rum drinks (TAIS); 22D: Small stores (SHOPS); 25D: Traveling show worker (CARNY); 26D: Sedona and Sorento (KIAS); 27D: Not made of interlaced parts, as fabric (UNWOVEN); 28D: Expansive stories (EPICS); 29D: Author Erica (JONG); 30D: "American __" (IDOL); 31D: Precious stone expert (GEMOLOGIST); 35D: Stitch over (RESEW); 37D: Man of La Mancha (SEÑOR); 38D: Acted like (APED); 39D: Contact or zoom (LENS); 41D: "All kidding __ ..." (ASIDE); 42D: No-food protest (FAST); 47D: Snazzy entrance (PORTAL); 48D: Bursts into tears (SOBS); 50D: Bite vigorously (CHOMP); 51D: Pie slice edges, geometrically (RADII); 52D: One of Caesar's assassins (CASCA); 53D: Actress Lindsay (LOHAN); 57D: Longest river (NILE); 58D: Roswell sightings, briefly (UFOS); 59D: Printer's "let it stand" (STET); 61D: To the __ degree (NTH); 63D: One of many in the Aegean Sea: Abbr. (ISL.); 64D: Windy City transportation org. (CTA); 65D: Computer feature that ends each of the five longest across answers (KEY).
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