THEME: CK-ing in! — "CK" is added to familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style
As add-a-letter (or in this case, letters) themes go, this one's OK. Helps that that added letters somewhat and very Scrabbly, respectively — livens up the grid quite a bit. Didn't like THREE CHECKERS as an answer (not wacky enough), but the others were solid, with FAIRY TACKLE being the big winner in my eyes. Did not like the clue on CERAMIC TICKLE (24A: Reaction to an amusing porcelain). Don't think of "TICKLE" as a reaction. It's an act (verb), or a sensation. Something that tickles me makes me laugh, but I would not say that a good joke or funny picture gave me a TICKLE.
Love love love the gigantic Down pairs in the NE and SW. Great words / phrases that add real solving interest to the puzzle. Nice when the grid is not ALL about the theme. I don't know what an SFC is (31D: Army E-7: Abbr.) — I'm guessing Sergeant First Class. Is that right? Yes! Never ever ever seen it in a grid. CLK is pretty terrible as abbrevs. go (51D: Court recordkeeper: Abbr.). But otherwise, the grid is pretty damned clean. Lots of common fill, but few things that are flat-out ugly. And crosswordese exile ERIQ La Salle (25D: La Salle of "ER") makes a return to the grid after what feels like a looooooong absence. Good to see him working again.
- 17A: Takedown by Tinkerbell? (FAIRY TACKLE)
- 24A: Reaction to an amusing porcelain? (CERAMIC TICKLE)
- 38A: Symptom of poor lighting? (FREQUENT FLICKER)
- 49A: Supermarket group taking a coffee break, perhaps? (THREE CHECKERS)
- 59A: Store-brand dill? (STOCK PICKLE) — odd man out here, as base word ("stockpile") is a single word that has to be split apart to make the wacky answer.
- 7A: City on the Cauca River (CALI) — in Columbia. Never heard of this river. Seems like it would make a good (hard) xword answer.
- 30A: Limoges-born impressionist (RENOIR) — I like the odd bit of trivia in clues for otherwise common answers.
- 11D: Consequences of some soccer fouls (FREE KICKS) — wasn't familiar with QUICK KICKS of a few days ago. FREE KICKS I know well. Speaking of ... World Cup 2010 mania is already well under way all around the globe ...
Thanks — see you Monday
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
PS I posted the following announcement at my NYT blog this morning, but it should of interest to most solvers here as well:
The Sun Crossword was arguably the best crossword in the country while it ran. Then the Sun folded and the crossword was without a home. Bad news for solvers and constructors everywhere. Now the Sun Crossword, edited by Peter Gordon, is being reborn as "Fireball Crosswords" (I only just now put the "Sun" / "Fireball" connection together ... D'oh!). Peter's puzzles rival those of the NYT for innovation, entertainment, and overall quality. He's offering a subscription of 50 puzzles (published roughly once a week for a year, starting in January) for the absurdly low price of $10. The more subscriber interest there is, the more likely the endeavor will continue in the future. You will not be disappointed in these puzzles — subscriptions would make great (thoughtful, cheap) gifts for the xword-lovers in your life. For more information, see his website here. And for all you pen-and-paper solvers, don't be put off by the electronic delivery mode. It's really Sooooo easy to print puzzles out and solve them like a Luddite. I can walk you through it :)
PPS Happy birthday, Jay-Z.
Everything Else — 1A: Afternoon break (SIESTA); 7A: City on the Cauca River (CALI); 11A: Monastic title (FRA); 14A: Many a marigold (ANNUAL); 15A: Juice letters? (AC/DC); 16A: VCR button (REW); 17A: Takedown by Tinker Bell? (FAIRY TACKLE); 19A: "Little" 1960s singer (EVA); 20A: Former Spanish queen (ENA); 21A: "The A-Team" actor (MR. T); 22A: Vile smile (SNEER); 24A: Reaction to an amusing porcelain? (CERAMIC TICKLE); 29A: Sought a seat (RAN); 30A: Limoges-born impressionist (RENOIR); 31A: Parsley piece (SPRIG); 34A: Mideast carrier (EL-AL); 36A: USSR successor (CIS); 38A: Symptom of poor lighting? (FREQUENT FLICKER); 42A: NASDAQ listings (COS.); 43A: Military station (POST); 44A: Western prop (LASSO); 45A: Out in the open (PUBLIC); 48A: Title for Roger Moore (SIR); 49A: Supermarket group taking a coffee break, perhaps? (THREE CHECKERS); 53A: Jersey groups (HERDS); 54A: Super Bowl played in MMVII (XLI); 55A: Expression of satisfaction (AAH); 58A: Sporty truck, for short (UTE); 59A: Store-brand dill? (STOCK PICKLE); 64A: MC's aid (MIC); 65A: First name in architecture (EERO); 66A: Block (IMPEDE); 67A: Pie chart fig. (PCT.); 68A: Inert gas (NEON); 69A: Like some foot bones (TARSAL); 1D: Place for gems (SAFE); 2D: Words with uproar or instant (IN AN); 3D: Massive old computer (ENIAC); 4D: Baja California __: Mexican state (SUR); 5D: Scotland's longest river (TAY); 6D: "Gosford Park" director (ALTMAN); 7D: Saguaros, e.g. (CACTI); 8D: Comics cry of disgust (ACK); 9D: Cholesterol initials (LDL); 10D: Strands at the ski resort, perhaps (ICES IN); 11D: Consequences of some soccer fouls (FREE KICKS); 12D: Big-time parties (REVELRIES); 13D: With it (AWARE); 18D: Shirt part (ARM); 23D: 31-Down, e.g. (NCO); 25D: La Salle of "ER" (ERIQ); 26D: Pizza Quick sauce maker (RAGU); 27D: Scrapbooking, e.g. (CRAFT); 28D: Recount (TELL); 31D: Army E-7: Abbr. (SFC); 32D: Like some visions (PROPHETIC); 33D: Bring back into practice (RESURRECT); 34D: Cain's eldest son (ENOCH); 35D: Kojak and Crocker: Abbr. (LTS.); 37D: Sign of a big hit (SRO); 39D: Majestic (EPIC); 40D: Nastase of tennis (ILIE); 41D: "It Must Be Him" singer Vikki (CARR); 46D: Breakfast companion? (BED); 47D: Ease (LESSEN); 48D: "Never mind" ('SKIP IT"); 49D: Haunted house sound (THUMP); 50D: Former pen pal? (EX-CON); 51D: Court recordkeeper: Abbr. (CLK.); 52D: "Land __!" (SAKES); 56D: "The West Wing" Emmy winner (ALDA); 57D: Achilles' weakness (HEEL); 60D: Place to start a hole (TEE); 61D: Pizarro's quest (ORO); 62D: The Monkees' "__ Believer" (I'M A); 63D: "Kiss of life," briefly (CPR).