THEME: No theme today—Just a themeless Saturday puzzle
So here's how "This Week in L.A. Times Crosswording" went: Monday was Monday. Tuesday was Monday. Wednesday was Monday. Thursday was Tuesday, maybe even Wednesday—and so was Friday. And then Saturday, which ought to be the week's toughest puzzle, drops down to Tuesday level.
It's astounding that newspapers might've gotten complaints about the Saturday puzzle being harder than the Tuesday puzzle, isn't it? I mean, it's great that more beginners can tackle the puzzle, but the rest of us loved the L.A. Times crossword exactly as it was. We don't want an entire week of Tuesday difficulty. We'd at least like Friday and Saturday to reach Thursday NYT difficulty. Is that too much to concede, that the puzzle provide something for everyone?
That's the rationale behind the N.Y. Times' difficulty escalation—get 'em hooked on the Monday and Tuesday puzzle, let 'em build their skills, and they'll progress towards doing the late-week puzzles.
Yes, there are many solvers who don't even bother trying the harder puzzles. There are also many people who skip the easy puzzles because they prefer more challenge. The NYT captures both groups, while Tribune/LAT seems ready to jettison the latter faction. It's disappointing. Rex and PuzzleGirl and I wanted to use this blog to coach newer solvers, to teach them the crosswordese and unveil the tricks behind the tricky clues so that these solvers could triumph over ever more challenging puzzles. And now? Sigh.
Anyway. On with today's puzzle! It's loaded with 15-letter answers—a triple-stack in the middle embraced by pairs of 15s above and below. They're all clued straightforwardly, as are the shorter answers. Not a single question-marked clue in the bunch! (And it's almost certain that Stella and Bruce originally wrote tougher clues for the puzzle.) Here are the big entries:
- 14A: "This can't be true!" ("YOU'RE NOT SERIOUS!"). I prefer the McEnroesque "You cannot be serious!"
- 17A: 25-Across's WWII command (EUROPEAN THEATER). Who is 25A? DDE, or WWII general who became pres.—Dwight D. Eisenhower.
- 31A: Scorned notion (HARE-BRAINED IDEA). The Hare and Rabbit Anti-Defamation League prefers the term bird-brained.
- 37A: Oil and vinegar concoction (ITALIAN DRESSING). Make the vinegar balsamic, please. My kid, he'll eat anything if there's balsamic vinegar on it.
- 38A: "Back off!" ("DON'T GET TOO CLOSE!").
- 55A: Title guy asked to "play a song for me," in a Byrds hit (MR. TAMBOURINE MAN). I...honestly don't think I know this song. Really. Video time! Wow, Bob Dylan kinda looks like Adam Sandler in that performance.
- 57A: Cause of many traveling delays (AIRPORT SECURITY). The TSA line is excellent for training people to be obedient sheep who dare not question authority, isn't it?
- 4D: High martial arts rank (BROWN BELT). This puzzle was so easy, I mucked things up by putting in BLACK BELT and still finished in an easy-Wednesday time. DO I DARE (51A: "Is it worth the risk?") include my solving time here? Seems like a commenter hollers at me for arrogance whenever I do that. I't's at Crossword Fiend if you're interested.
- 9D: Whack anew (REHIT). RE-no.
- 11D: Nincompoop (TOTAL IDIOT). Uh, is that a thing? "Complete idiot" sounds better to me, but I quizzed my husband on words to precede "idiot" and he said "total."
- 24D: Ollie North's '80s "affair" (IRAN-CONTRA). Excellent answer. How many of you saw "affair" in quotation marks and thought of Fawn Hall?
- 47D: Japanese aborigine (AINU). I didn't even see this one while solving. Old-school crosswordese! It doesn't get much play these days. You can read about them here. The Ainu don't look Japanese at all.
Everything Else — 1A: Many a Yemeni (ARAB); 5A: __ Rouge (KHMER); 10A: Sch. support groups (PTAS); 18A: Algae on the beach (SEAWEED); 19A: Semaphore user's output (SIGNALS); 20A: "__ Blu Dipinto Di Blu": 1958 hit (NEL); 21A: Implement (TOOL); 22A: Nursery bed (CRIB); 28A: Devilish tot (IMP); 39A: SASE, e.g. (ENC.); 40A: Forever and a day, facetiously (EON); 41A: Not much (A TAD); 42A: Spoken (ORAL); 46A: Terminal-to-hotel transport (VAN); 48A: Kind of fingerprint or code (GENETIC); 58A: Afternoon socials (TEAS); 59A: Davis of "Do the Right Thing" (OSSIE); 60A: Words before ghost or doctor (SEE A); 1D: Tars' affirmatives (AYES); 2D: Licentious sort (ROUE); 3D: Certain something (AURA); 5D: Get ready to pray (KNEEL); 6D: 1950s tennis great Lew (HOAD); 7D: Part of a range: Abbr. (MTN.); 8D: Inexact nos. (ESTS); 10D: Beethoven's instrument (PIANO); 13D: Lith. et al., once (SSRS); 15D: French for "sword" (ÉPÉE); 16D: __ Park: Queens area near Forest Hills (REGO); 22D: Scold (CHIDE); 23D: Boca __ (RATON); 25D: "Divine Comedy" writer (DANTE); 26D: Inflicted upon (DID TO); 27D: Collapsed company chronicled in the 2005 documentary subtitled "The Smartest Guys in the Room" (ENRON); 30D: Alerted, as a doctor (PAGED); 32D: Important (BIG); 33D: "Norma __" (RAE); 34D: Want-ad abbr. (EEO); 35D: U.S. Army medal (DSC); 36D: Martha's Vineyard natives, e.g. (ISLANDERS); 43D: Gets as a return (REAPS); 44D: Prefix with sphere (ATMO-); 45D: Book, to BolÌvar (LIBRO); 46D: Express, as an opinion (VOICE); 48D: Exam for a Wharton Sch. hopeful (GMAT); 49D: Port on its own lake (ERIE); 50D: No-frills beds (COTS); 51D: Eins plus zwei (DREI); 52D: Gallic girlfriend (AMIE); 53D: Interest percentage (RATE); 54D: Pop musician from County Donegal (ENYA); 56D: __ Constitution (USS).