THEME: No theme today—This is a themeless Saturday puzzle, a.k.a. "freestyle" crossword
If you've been fairly consistent with your Saturday solving experiences lately, you might have struggled a bit more with this one. It's maybe 30% harder than last week's. Still not as tough as a themeless NYT crossword, but more challenging than the last couple months' Saturday LATs have been.
Last week I told you I prefer grids with four quadrants of stacked long answers. I tend to enjoy the puzzles packed with 7s a bit less, as you get more plain words and less in the way of lively phrases, names, and conversational language. This puzzle mostly left me cold, though I enjoyed the retro '90s oomph of 42D: EUROPOP clued as Ace of Base genre. A few of the answers crossing it are just insane, though:
- 41A: Tiny white ovum (ANT EGG). Uh, ick.
- 48A: Iberian river (DOURO). Okay, I have been paying attention to our Crosswordese Rivers of Europe my whole life, and this one? Is not ringing a bell.
- 52A: Noilly __: vermouth brand (PRAT). Pratfall, yes. Noilly Prat? Not ringing a bell.
- 15A: Bridge bid, briefly (THREE NO). Three? No. What? I've seen ONENO as desperation fill in other crosswords, but now THREENO is taking up even more space. Is this totally legit bridge-speak or desperation fill?
- 17A: Old Meccan governors (SHARIFS). If you're in my generation, you know SHARIF from The Clash's "Rock the Casbah" perhaps even more than via Omar Sharif. Omar would know THREE NO, wouldn't he?
- 32A: Shrub with clusters of blue flowers (HYSSOP). A much prettier word than anything that sounds like "hiccup" has a right to be.
- 4D: Three times, in Rx's (TER). Meh. Doctors never write this on a prescription. They'll write tid, short for ter in die, Latin for "three times a day." But they're just not going to spell out TER.
Crosswordese 101: At a recent American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, a lot of people got stung by not knowing AMIS, which is clued today as 11D: "The Rachel Papers" novelist Martin but can also be Martin's dad Kingsley AMIS, the novelist who wrote Lucky Jim, as well as the French plural meaning "friends." Martin's other books include Time's Arrow, London Fields, and Money. French-skewing clues have included French friends; Porthos and Athos, e.g.; Pierre's pals; Brest buddies; and any other alliterative equivalent for "French friends."
And now, for the juicy stuff:
- 1A: Treat for tired dogs? (FOOT RUB). Ooh, yes. I will take two, please.
- 2D: Candy bar with an exclamation point in its name (OH HENRY!). Anyone see these over Halloween? I didn't.
- 3D: Fruits used in making Grand Marnier (ORANGES). Oh, hello! We are here, we Oranges.
- 21D: "I wouldn't do that just yet" ("NOT SO FAST")/37D: "For sure!" ("OF COURSE!"). Ah, yes, the puzzle is talking to us. Always fun.
Everything Else — 1A: Treat for tired dogs? (FOOT RUB); 8A: Snake oil, so it's said (PANACEA); 15A: Bridge bid, briefly (THREE NO); 16A: Fauna (ANIMALS); 17A: Old Meccan governors (SHARIFS); 18A: Swift specialties (SATIRES); 19A: Gents (MEN); 20A: "Real breakfast 24/7" restaurant chain (DENNY'S); 22A: Ventura County's __ Valley (SIMI); 23A: Actress Swenson (INGA); 25A: God of Spain (DIOS); 26A: More than just ask (BEG); 27A: Head lock (TRESS); 29A: "__ boy!" (ATTA); 31A: City on the Rhine (BONN); 32A: Shrub with clusters of blue flowers (HYSSOP); 34A: Betrayals (SELLOUTS); 36A: Hotel amenity for business travelers (IN-ROOM FAX); 38A: Delete (CROSS OFF); 41A: Tiny white ovum (ANT EGG); 45A: Musical set in Manhattan's East Village (RENT); 46A: Armstrong singing style (SCAT); 48A: Iberian river (DOURO); 49A: Stock suffix (-ADE); 50A: Agcy. that conducts workplace inspections (OSHA); 52A: Noilly __: vermouth brand (PRAT); 53A: Defect (FLAW); 55A: Private pupils (TUTEES); 57A: Artist who funded Manhattan's Strawberry Fields memorial (ONO); 58A: Reminder file (TICKLER); 60A: Ale seller (BREW PUB); 62A: Menu courses (ENTREES); 63A: Ventilation source (AIRHOLE); 64A: Can't stand (DESPISE); 65A: Did over on a Selectric, say (RETYPED); 1D: Ark. city that began as a military post (FT. SMITH); 2D: Candy bar with an exclamation point in its name (OH HENRY!); 3D: Fruits used in making Grand Marnier (ORANGES); 4D: Three times, in Rx's (TER); 5D: Senate Majority Leader Harry (REID); 6D: Ravenous, probably (UNFED); 7D: Sarajevo's region (BOSNIA); 8D: Lineup announcement medium, briefly (PA SYSTEM); 9D: Santa __: West Coast winds (ANAS); 10D: Trivial point (NIT); 11D: "The Rachel Papers" novelist Martin (AMIS); 12D: Arctic deer (CARIBOU); 13D: Nitrogen or oxygen (ELEMENT); 14D: Transfers, as legal rights (ASSIGNS); 21D: "I wouldn't do that just yet" ("NOT SO FAST"); 24D: Fielder's stat (ASSIST); 28D: Boys, to men (SONS); 30D: Italian sports car, briefly (ALFA); 31D: Old-fashioned proof of purchase (BOX TOP); 33D: Aces (PROS); 35D: Crow's nest sighting (LAND); 37D: "For sure!" ("OF COURSE!"); 38D: Skillfully made (CRAFTED); 39D: Deletion indicator (RED LINE); 40D: Plays without intermissions (ONE-ACTS); 42D: Ace of Base genre (EUROPOP); 43D: Bit of grit (GRANULE); 44D: Retire, but not permanently (GO TO BED); 47D: Legal profession (THE BAR); 51D: Raptor's home (AERIE); 54D: Cincinnati sitcom station (WKRP); 55D: Tiger's pocketful (TEES); 56D: Miro Foundation architect (SERT); 59D: Gift for an island visitor (LEI); 61D: Reason (WHY).