THEME: No theme today—This is a themeless Saturday puzzle or, if you will, a "freestyle" crossword
If you read the comments on the Friday post, you heard the good news—the powers that be agree that the late-week puzzles needn't be as easy as the early-week ones, so beginning in a few weeks, the Friday and Saturday puzzles will offer a more rigorous challenge. Not all the way back up to their 2008 levels, but hey, part way is better than nothing.
This Saturday's crossword, however, lands at about a Tuesday NYT level. There's plenty of juicy stuff in it, though, so we've got a lot to cover. First up is a term I don't know at all, but that is probably familiar to geologists: QUAKE LAKE, or 15A: Basin that can result from a seismic landslide. It's related to the broader category of landslide dams, apparently, and there's a Quake Lake in Montana and a quake lake in Sichuan, China, that formed after the 2008 earthquake. Did you folks know this term?
Favorite answers? Right here:
- 1A: Spears on the table (ASPARAGUS). My first thought was BRITNEY. I don't care for asparagus, so I certainly do not have any recipes for it. I do, however, enjoy the science of asparagus.
- It's a Woodstock criss-cross party! JANIS and JIMI are 10A: Joplin at Woodstock and 10D: Hendrix at Woodstock.
- Nobody gets excited by PETER I or OTTO I in the fill. But LOUIS XIV looks awesome there, doesn't he? (20A: European ruler for 72 years). Speaking of Louis, have you seen this clip of comedian Louis CK on Conan O'Brien's show? It's hilarious.
- 39A: It creates an adjustable loop (SLIP KNOT). Yeah, you don't often see a PKN smack dab in the middle of an answer.
- When I was a teenage existentialist, I was 11D: Blown away (AWESTRUCK) by 12D: 1944 Sartre play (NO EXIT).
- 21D: Ship in 1898 news (U.S.S. MAINE), I like multi-word entries and those with unexpected letter combos. SSM looks wrong but it's right.
- 23D: Lunchbox alternative (PAPER BAG). I don't like this answer so much as the way it evokes the idiom "can't punch his way out of a paper bag." Though I never use "punch"—how about "She can't solve her way out of a paper bag"?
Now we'll wind things up with our daily tutorial.
Crosswordese 101: I'm sure that many of you learned this word in the course of childhood piano lessons—and could in fact play an étude in your sleep—but I lacked that exposure. I learned ÉTUDE (58D: Musical exercise) from crosswords, so from my perspective it is crosswordese of the highest order. It's French for "study," n'est ce pas? Other key words you may see in ÉTUDE clues include practice piece, Chopin piece, and piano piece. Here's pianist Andre Watts playing Chopin's "Revolutionary Étude" on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. How often do our musical clips conclude with a hug? Not often enough, my friends. Not often enough.
Everything Else — 16A: Uncooperative words (I WON'T); 17A: Without equal (UNRIVALED); 18A: 1980s attorney general (MEESE); 19A: "Macbeth" (1962) Emmy winner Maurice (EVANS); 22A: "I claim that!" ("DIBS!"); 23A: Metal-beating hammer parts (PEENS); 25A: It ebbs and flows (TIDE); 26A: GI show gp. (USO); 27A: Cotton Bowl site (DALLAS); 28A: AAA suggestions (RTES.); 29A: Give way (COLLAPSE); 31A: Spartans' sch. (MSU); 33A: Apprentice (TRAINEE); 34A: Home Depot kitchen department array (FAUCETS); 38A: Remote (FAR); 40A: It may be cracked by a spy (CODE); 43A: Essayist Francis et al. (BACONS); 45A: Movie set VIP (DIR.); 46A: "Concord Sonata" composer (IVES); 47A: In __: seething (A RAGE); 48A: Notes after fa (SOLA); 49A: Alter, perhaps by using unethical techniques (REJIGGER); 51A: Tehran language (FARSI); 52A: Nuts (CRAZY); 53A: When business is slow (OFF-SEASON); 56A: Iron-rich meat (LIVER); 57A: Everly Brothers hit that begins "I bless the day I found you" (LET IT BE ME); 58A: Musical exercise (ETUDE); 59A: Spoke to (ADDRESSED); 1D: Water conduit (AQUEDUCT); 2D: Driver's glare blocker (SUN VISOR); 3D: Certain conic section, in math (PARABOLA); 4D: 1935 Pulitzer-winning playwright Zoe (AKINS); 5D: Speeds (up) (REVS); 6D: Miss. neighbor (ALA.); 7D: Milk purchase: Abbr. (GAL); 8D: Guitar relative: Var. (UKELELE); 9D: Spiritual Arizona resort (SEDONA); 13D: Where most stay when it rains (INSIDE); 14D: Martin and Allen (STEVES); 24D: Other than that (ELSE); 27D: Comic Carvey (DANA); 30D: Like wax museum figures (LIFE-SIZED); 32D: Has dinner (SUPS); 34D: Beat with a stick (FLOG); 35D: Signs on the back (ENDORSES); 36D: Arduous (TOILSOME); 37D: Tense, as relations (STRAINED); 39D: Gobbled (down) (SCARFED); 40D: Oater wagon formation (CIRCLE); 41D: Past the pain of breaking up, say (OVER IT); 42D: "Been there, done that" feeling (DÉJÀ VU); 44D: Biological ring of color (AREOLA); 48D: Swedish autos (SAABS); 50D: "Did __ and gimble in the wabe": "Jabberwocky" (GYRE); 51D: Fancy party (FETE); 54D: Florist letters (FTD); 55D: Churchill's title (SIR).