THEME: "Magician's deception" — same clue for each of three long theme answers
A very solid Monday puzzle. Consistent theme, ultra-smooth fill. There's hardly a clunky entry in the whole damned grid. Very impressive (oh, one exception: PLU. 53D: Like "mice" and "men": Abbr. Icky). Smooth grids are difficult to achieve, and since they don't result in oohs and aahs, they rarely get the credit they deserve. After hacking my way through another, much less expertly filled puzzle today, I was grateful for this one. Very grateful. Love the ironic intersection of PRIG (30D: Holier-than-thou type) and THONGS (38A: Very brief briefs), and the rhyming interplay of SEEDY (9A: Like a disreputable hotel) and REEDY (61A: Like oboe music).
- 17A: SMOKE AND MIRRORS
- 35A: SLEIGHT OF HAND
- 52A: OPTICAL ILLUSION
I really want to play Steve Miller's "Abracadabra" right now, but a. I did that recently on my other website, and b. when I did so, I got lambasted by Miller-haters for foisting that earworm upon them. So ... Olivia Newton-John? Stevie Wonder? Hmmm. How about a double header, first Louis Prima and Keely Smith:
And then one of my favorite pop finds of the last year: Kiwi singer/songwriter Ladyhawke:
["She often claims her largest influence is Electric Light Orchestra..."]
Best youtube user comment on that last video: "i maybe think this is most great song ever maked by humen people of this plnaet."
Crosswordese 101: ETS (62A: Little green men, briefly) — briefly ... In Fiction. I guess the clue just assumes we know that. Anyway, obviously this stands for extraterrestrials. I rarely see / hear the word E.T. (in the singular, let alone the plural) outside crosswords, with the obvious exception being the Spielberg movie of 1982. I picked ETS today more for its other meaning in the world of crosswords: as an abbrev. of the Educational Testing Service, the group behind the S.A.T., G.R.E., A.P., and other standardized tests. Aliens are far more frequently used to clue ETS, but if you do crosswords long enough, the Educational Testing Service meaning will come up.
- 1A: Joplin piano piece (RAG) — first thing in the grid. Always very helpful to have the first letters of a set of longish Downs in place. Couldn't make the potato clue work — 1D: Many an Idaho potato (RUSSET) — but the other two came quickly, providing the first word in SMOKE AND MIRRORS, which sailed across the grid.
- 46A: Like the person in a diet ad "after" picture (LEANER) — the peril of coming at things backwards: sometimes seeing the suffix alone (-ER) isn't enough to get you over the hump. This grid is structured in such a way that if you are doing continuous solving (i.e. building off of pre-existing answers as much as possible), then you're going to end up backing into (R to L) the entire middle portion of the grid.
- 51A: It's enough for Luigi (MARIO) ... I mean (BASTA).
- 8D: Christina Crawford's "_____ Dearest" ("MOMMIE") — classic Dunaway:
- 9D: Wrapped garments in Agra culture (saris) — "Agra culture" = good one. AGRA = site of Taj Mahal.
- 18D: Barbie's boyfriend (Ken) — really wish "ball-less" could have been part of this alliterative clue.
- 19D: Cyclotron bit (ion) — that's about as "bit"ty as you can get. Molecule(s) with electrical charge caused by gaining/losing electron(s).
- 35D: Magic act, for one (show) — bonus theme answer!
- 44D: Building site giants (cranes) — went looking for a company name here. A bird lover might have given CRANES a bird clue, and then changed GLOVER to PLOVER in the NW added birdiness.
See you Friday.
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
Everything Else — 1A: Joplin piano piece (RAG).; 4A: Witch trials town (SALEM).; 9A: Like a disreputable hotel (SEEDY).; 14A: www address (URL).; 15A: Pic (PHOTO).; 16A: Knight's protection (ARMOR).; 17A: Magician's deception (SMOKE AND MIRRORS).; 20A: Kept in reserve (SAVED).; 21A: Dewy (MOIST).; 22A: Eve's first home (EDEN).; 23A: Really smart people (BRAINS).; 26A: Cubes in a freezer (ICE).; 29A: Old salt (TAR).; 30A: Investigation (PROBE).; 31A: Read, as a bar code (SCAN).; 32A: Southern breakfast side (GRITS).; 33A: Concurrence (ACCORD).; 35A: Magician's deception (SLEIGHT OF HAND).; 38A: Very brief briefs (THONGS).; 39A: Take in or let out (ALTER).; 40A: Improve, as skills (HONE).; 41A: Apple beverage (CIDER).; 42A: __ room: play area (REC).; 45A: Lamb's mom (EWE).; 46A: Like the person in a diet ad "after" picture (LEANER).; 48A: Equipment (GEAR).; 49A: "Grrr!" is one (SNARL).; 51A: It's enough for Luigi (BASTA).; 52A: Magician's deception (OPTICAL ILLUSION).; 57A: Finish second, in a race (PLACE).; 58A: Inventor Howe (ELIAS).; 59A: Payable (DUE).; 60A: Natives of Ankara (TURKS).; 61A: Like oboe music (REEDY).; 62A: Little green men, briefly (ETS).; 1D: Many an Idaho potato (RUSSET).; 2D: Spanish fleet (ARMADA).; 3D: Danny of "Lethal Weapon" films (GLOVER).; 4D: Floored it (SPED).; 5D: "I have the answer!" ("AHA!").; 6D: Chaney of film (LON).; 7D: Takeoff approx. (ETD).; 8D: Christina Crawford's "__ Dearest" (MOMMIE).; 9D: Wrapped garments seen in Agra culture (SARIS).; 10D: Says "2 x 2 = 5," say (ERRS).; 11D: :-), e.g. (EMOTICON).; 12D: Palme __: Cannes film prize (D'OR).; 13D: 12-mo. periods (YRS.).; 18D: Barbie's boyfriend (KEN).; 19D: Cyclotron bit (ION).; 23D: Naval jails (BRIGS).; 24D: __ IRA (ROTH).; 25D: Choose not to vote (ABSTAIN).; 27D: "Pick a __, any ..." (CARD).; 28D: See 38-Down (END).; 30D: Holier-than-thou type (PRIG).; 31D: Surgery reminder (SCAR).; 32D: Wilder or Hackman (GENE).; 33D: Subsequent to (AFTER).; 34D: "Moonstruck" Oscar winner (CHER).; 35D: Magic act, for one (SHOW).; 36D: Texas symbol (LONE STAR).; 37D: Ye __ Tea Shoppe (OLDE).; 38D: With 28-Down, novel conclusion (THE).; 41D: Square dance leader (CALLER).; 42D: Live (at) (RESIDE).; 43D: Take the family to a restaurant (EAT OUT).; 44D: Building site giants (CRANES).; 46D: Shoestrings (LACES).; 47D: The Gay Nineties, e.g. (ERA).; 48D: "Fill 'er up" filler (GAS).; 50D: Just in the __ of time (NICK).; 51D: Occupied (BUSY).; 52D: Select, with "for" (OPT).; 53D: Like "mice" and "men": Abbr. (PLU.).; 54D: Land in the Seine (ILE).; 55D: Fib (LIE).; 56D: Young guy (LAD).