THEME: No theme today—This is a themeless Saturday puzzle or, if you will, a "freestyle" crossword
ZOMG! This is merely an easyish Saturday puzzle rather than a shockingly easy themeless. This one landed at Thursday NYT level for me—though I can't be sure, as I write this Friday evening, that the Negra Modelo didn't slow me down a tad. Though I generally find that a drink or two does not impair my crossword solving skills. In fact, I'm contemplating organizing an informal Tipsy Crossword Tournament at the next ACPT. Maybe in the hotel bar.
I haven't seen Thomas Heilman's byline in over a year, and I don't think he's done a ton of themelesses so I didn't know what to expect. The grid features triple-stacked 15s at the top and bottom. Like most triple stacks, these are mostly crossed by short answers—but there are also some kick-ass 8s and 11s intersecting them. Here are those answers:
- 1A: Obsolete item (A THING OF THE PAST). This is a terrific crossword answer. Five words, completely natural language.
- 16A: "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and others (CAUTIONARY TALES). I was thinking of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and tried to wedge HARRYPOTTERBOOKS in there. Nope! Needed to think of Mickey Mouse making Mephistophelean bargains for wizardly power.
- 17A: Pet that's larger than a toy (MINIATURE POODLE). Have you seen the incredible ways Sandra Hartness decks out her poodle, Cindy? The picture gallery is here.
- 60A: Tax service, familiarly (INTERNAL REVENUE). Can anyone tell me why I started out with NATIONAL here? That's not at all a phrase with the same currency as INTERNAL REVENUE.
- 65A: It may be awakened after a period of inattention (RENEWED INTEREST). Ooh, I like this one.
- 66A: Retail security staff (STORE DETECTIVES). There's a reason the store detective is not the subject of an entire genre of fiction and movies, isn't there? "Ooh, here's the gripping tale of a store detective who—snzzzxx."
- 3D: Hid out, with "down" (HUNKERED). Gotta love hunkering down when the weather is terrible.
- 10D: Some triangle sides (HYPOTENUSES). Do you think hippopotamuses could learn to recognize hypotenuses?
- 23D: Half-baked (HARE-BRAINED). Hey, look, they both have h.-b. initials. I just asked my husband if he could think of anyone with those initials. He barked "Howard Barkin." Howard is, of course, neither hare-brained nor half-baked. Probably fully baked. And quite often faster than me on crosswords. Also Halle Berry. I don't know about her crossword skills. Rex, are you and Halle crossword pen pals?
- 38D: Soviet leader who signed SALT I and II (BREZHNEV). Fun to say. Who doesn't love the ZH sound? Americans lose out. We use the sound but not the spelling. I'd like leisure much more if it were spelled "leizhure." Wouldn't you?
- 18A: Group originally named the Jolly Corks (ELKS). Aw, why'd they change their name? "Jolly Corks" is awesome. The Elks have a ridiculously grand domed building in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood. It stands out, like anything jolly and corky ought to.
- 36A: Verdi aria that translates to "It was you" (ERI TU). What the...? Really? That's what crosswordese "ERI TU" means? Does the Spanish song "Eres Tu" mean the same thing?
- 4D: "Yea, verily" ("IT IS SO"). It's kind of a crappy answer, but the clue took me straight to it. Gotta love a "yea, verily" when it arises.
- 45D: Connecting flights (STAIRS). Aha! Flights of stairs connecting the floors of a building. I've seen this misleading clue before, but I still appreciate it.
- 64D: Lab caretaker? (VET). As in a labrador retriever cared for by a veterinarian.
I'm not sure where to go for today's lesson. Not one, but two four-letter European rivers starting with O, neither of 'em the Oder? Both the ORNE and the OUSE have been covered already, Operatic ERI TU is golden crosswordese. Then there's 35D: Alice's chronicler, a folk singer named ARLO Guthrie. The Arlos win today.
Crosswordese 101: You need to know a handful of folkie clues for ARLO, but Mr. Guthrie isn't the only ARLO in crosswords. There's also the comic strip "Arlo & Janis," in which Arlo and Janis are husband and wife. Arlo Guthrie's dad is folk legend Woody Guthrie. Arlo sang "Alice's Restaurant" (that link's a 2005 live video I can't embed here) and he played at Woodstock. And now you are equipped to recognize about 95% of the clues for ARLO. Sing-along time:
Everything Else — 1A: Obsolete item (A THING OF THE PAST); 16A: "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and others (CAUTIONARY TALES); 17A: Pet that's larger than a toy (MINIATURE POODLE); 18A: Group originally named the Jolly Corks (ELKS); 19A: Zaire's Mobutu Sese __ (SEKO); 20A: No longer serving: Abbr. (RET.); 21A: Bk. before Job (ESTH.); 24A: Themes (TOPICS); 27A: Try to bean, in baseball (THROW AT); 30A: Easing of tension (DETENTE); 31A: Roadside grazer (DOE); 32A: False show (PRETENSE); 34A: Fountain beverage (SODA); 36A: Verdi aria that translates to "It was you" (ERI TU); 37A: Diamond stats (RBIS); 41A: Hearty entrée (RIB ROAST); 44A: Caviar, say (ROE); 45A: Quantities possessing only magnitude (SCALARS); 48A: Veneration (RESPECT); 50A: Seat of Washington's Pierce County (TACOMA); 51A: 1956 Mideast crisis site (SUEZ); 52A: Part of a loop (ARC); 53A: "Given that ..." ("IF SO ..."); 57A: McAn of shoes (THOM); 60A: Tax service, familiarly (INTERNAL REVENUE); 65A: It may be awakened after a period of inattention (RENEWED INTEREST); 66A: Retail security staff (STORE DETECTIVES); 1D: Tiptop (ACME); 2D: Shadow (TAIL); 3D: Hid out, with "down" (HUNKERED); 4D: "Yea, verily" ("IT IS SO"); 5D: Actress Vardalos (NIA); 6D: Contracted, as an illness (GOT); 7D: Burden (ONUS); 8D: Cab hailer (FARE); 9D: Serious trip (TREK); 10D: Some triangle sides (HYPOTENUSES); 11D: WWII zone (ETO); 12D: Kung __ chicken (PAO); 13D: Second man on the moon (ALDRIN); 14D: Choose (SELECT); 15D: Safari menace (TSE-TSE); 22D: Local govt. unit (TWP.); 23D: Half-baked (HARE-BRAINED); 25D: They may end with 27-Down (OTS); 26D: Equal (PEER); 27D: Passes may result in them: Abbr. (TDS); 28D: "Yoo-__!" (HOO); 29D: Alaska and La., once (TERRS.); 30D: Remove pitch stains from (DETAR); 33D: Spanish uncle (TIO); 35D: Alice's chronicler (ARLO); 38D: Soviet leader who signed SALT I and II (BREZHNEV); 39D: Biennial games org. (IOC); 40D: Tennis unit (SET); 42D: Descartes's conclusion (I AM); 43D: Nashville sch. (TSU); 45D: Connecting flights (STAIRS); 46D: Customs exemption for an auto (CAR NET); 47D: Customer ID (ACCT. NO.); 49D: Czar known as "the Great" (PETER I); 54D: Lose color (FADE); 55D: Narrow opening (SLIT); 56D: Normandy river (ORNE); 58D: York's river (OUSE); 59D: "Miracle" 1969 World Series winners (METS); 61D: Chariot ending? (-EER); 62D: "Self-Reliance" essayist's monogram (RWE); 63D: List-ending abbr. (ETC.); 64D: Lab caretaker? (VET).