THEME: "A-FRAMES"—Four long answers are "framed" by the letter A
Last Wednesday was mustaches; today we have an unusual collection of 15-letter answers that start and end with A. The Wednesday puzzles are still skewing easier than one might have expected (solidly Mondayish in difficulty), but maybe the Wednesday themes are a bit more inventive than the Monday and Tuesdays? Thursday and Friday L.A. Times puzzles just irk me because I want them to be markedly more challenging, the way they used to be. And then I cry on Saturday when a themeless puzzle rolls in at Monday difficulty. But Wednesday! It's not a grievous assault on nature for Wednesdays to be this easy.
- 17A: 49th state's largest city (ANCHORAGE, ALASKA). Can you see Russia from there? Maybe from the rooftop?
- 27A: E.M. Forster classic set in fictional Chandrapore (A PASSAGE TO INDIA).
- 47A: Classic Italian "farewell" song (ARRIVEDERCI, ROMA). '50s movie musicals are not remotely in my wheelhouse, but the title is eminently familiar. I think I thought it was a song title, not also a movie. Here's the title tune:
- 63A: Two-part drama that won two Best Play Tonys and a Best Miniseries Emmy (ANGELS IN AMERICA). Incredible play—I saw the HBO adaptation. Here's the scene where James Cromwell as an M.D. gives Al Pacino as Roy Cohn his AIDS diagnosis (adult language warning):
- 39A: Houses with sharply angled roofs, and what this puzzle's four longest answers literally have in common (A-FRAMES). Now, one could argue that this clue could have dispensed with everything after the comma, requiring the solver to ponder what the four long answers have in common, lay eyeballs on A-FRAMES, and have an epiphany about what the theme entailed—but for a puzzle that's now shooting at Monday easiness, the solver's asked to do less thinking.
What else have we got here?
- Three sometimes-unsavory *IT words are partying here. 38A: __ for tat (TIT), OK, that's all right. (Quit snickering. A TIT is also a...kind of bird, you know.) 42A: Point to pick (NIT), OK, NITs aren't just lice eggs, they're also small things to complain about. (Etymology moment for the day: NIT dates back to the Old English word hnitu, so lice have been around for centuries. Or millennia.) 68A: Acne spot (ZIT)...hmm, there is no way to make that one not gross.
- 12D: Korean soldiers (ROKS). Hmm. ROK is an abbreviation for the Republic of Korea armed forces. Was ROK used during the Korean War to refer to individual members of the ROK army? I'll bet at least five of you know the answer.
- 32D: "Hawaii Five-O" nickname (DANNO). Some people think this should be spelled with one N, but there's some compelling evidence that the two-N spelling was preferred by those writing the show's scripts. You wouldn't believe the amount of bloodshed among crossword constructors arguing about the most correct spelling—they just want to get it right, that's all. (Actress Linda DANO is available for one-N clues, of course.)
- 44D: Interpret via mouth movements (LIP-READ). This comes in handy when you want to know exactly which swear word a coach or player is using on televised sports.