THEME: "Blah Humbug!" — Add an "L" (after an initial "B"), get a wacky phrase
Uh ... OK, I guess. Feel like the LAT relies way, way, way too much on the add-a-letter gimmick. Today, a couple of the theme answers are cute esp. BLEAT THE RAP. For whatever reason, it took me a little while to pick up the theme, as BLANK ROBBER didn't register quickly. SW gave me the most trouble, first because I mysteriously had BLANK LEA- instead of BLAND LEA- (and ORK for ORD didn't raise alarms, as it's a reasonable, and much better, answer), and second because everything S of RIATA (exc. DER) was clued oddly / toughly. Difficulty seemed very much in line with the typical Friday LAT. Low-mid 6s for me.
- 17A: Scrabble cheat? (BLANK ROBBER)
- 11D: Perform a sheepish hip-hop number? (BLEAT THE RAP)
- 25D: Boring boss? (BLAND LEADER)
- 53A: Singer who loves flashy jewelry? (BLING CROSBY)
[This is where "BLING" comes from ... 1999]
What I really like about this puzzle: the entire SE. FLY SOLO (41D: Achieve a piloting milestone) and CALYPSO (48A: Caribbean music genre) give that corner serious flair, BRO' (56D: Pal). YES they do.
Crosswordese 101: DER (61A: "___ Rosenkavalier": Strauss opera) — the oldest of old skool clues for DER — a clue/answer I learned in my early days of solving the NYT under the editorial tutelage of Eugene T. Maleska. Feels like I haven't seen this exact clue in a while (where I feel like I used to see it in every other puzzle back in the day). There is a very accomplished young crossword constructor named Kevin DER.
- 63D: Ninnies (YO-YOS) — I had DODOS; that hurt a little.
- 10D: Pendant pair (EAR DROPS) — I have a hard time accepting this answer. Had EARRINGS, of course. Considered EAR HOOPS. EAR DROPS are things I put *in* my dog's ears if she has, say, mites.
- 32A: Solution for a bad hair day (HAT) — I had GEL.
- 51D: Org. with the Chicago Sky and Seattle Storm (WNBA) — misread this as a clue about a radio station ... WNBC! Maybe? No.
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
Everything Else — 1A: Golf relative? (JETTA); 6A: Camp sight (CANOE); 11A: A favorite is a good one (BET); 14A: Liquid fat (OLEIN); 15A: "The Audacity of Hope" author (OBAMA); 16A: Language of Southeast Asia (LAO); 17A: Scrabble cheat? (BLANK ROBBER); 19A: Cause of star wars? (EGO); 20A: Isn't on the level (SLOPES); 21A: Put one's cards on the table (DEALT); 23A: Doctor's order (LAB TEST); 26A: Babbles (PRATES); 27A: White Rabbit's cry (I'M LATE); 28A: "Like, wow!" ("FAR OUT!"); 30A: Antiquated alpine apparatus (T-BAR); 31A: Curl beneficiary, informally (BICEP); 32A: Solution for a bad hair day (HAT); 35A: Rooster's mate (HEN); 36A: Moisturizer target (DRYNESS); 38A: Printemps follower (ÉTÉ); 39A: Traffic reg. (ORD.); 40A: Miss Muffet, before the spider showed up (EATER); 41A: E-mail heading word (FROM); 42A: Stay a while (LINGER); 44A: Viselike device (C-CLAMP); 46A: Future doctor's project (THESIS); 48A: Caribbean music genre (CALYPSO); 49A: Oater prop (RIATA); 50A: Low areas (SWALES); 52A: Stop (END); 53A: Singer who loves flashy jewelry? (BLING CROSBY); 58A: Bartender's concern (AGE); 59A: Leave alone (LET BE); 60A: Piercing look (GLARE); 61A: "__ Rosenkavalier": Strauss opera (DER); 62A: "The Federalist" component (ESSAY); 63A: Ninnies (YO-YOS); 1D: Position (JOB); 2D: Wright wing, maybe (ELL); 3D: Break fluid? (TEA); 4D: Old West badge (TIN STAR); 5D: Low sock (ANKLET); 6D: Take for one's own use (CO-OPT); 7D: French friar (ABBÉ); 8D: Catches (NABS); 9D: East Ender's flat ('OME); 10D: Pendant pair (EAR DROPS); 11D: Perform a sheepish hip-hop number? (BLEAT THE RAP); 12D: Boston College athlete (EAGLE); 13D: Whistle sounds (TOOTS); 18D: American Beauty, e.g. (ROSE); 22D: Agua, across the Pyrenees (EAU); 23D: Collectible print, briefly (LITHO); 24D: Fossilized resin (AMBER); 25D: Boring boss? (BLAND LEADER); 26D: Wash. title (PRES.); 28D: More delicate (FINER); 29D: Andy Roddick, at times (ACER); 31D: Data measure (BYTE); 33D: Tiny quantities (ATOMS); 34D: A conductor might pick it up (TEMPO); 36D: Subject to contradiction (DENIABLE); 37D: Tattered duds (RAGS); 41D: Achieve a piloting milestone (FLY SOLO); 43D: Suffix with Mao (-IST); 44D: Math class, briefly (CALC); 45D: Service providers? (CLERGY); 46D: Its gradual loss leads to baldness (TREAD); 47D: Depend (on) (HINGE); 48D: Shrewd (CAGEY); 50D: Convenes (SITS); 51D: Org. with the Chicago Sky and Seattle Storm (WNBA); 54D: Paris article (LES); 55D: Utter (SAY); 56D: Pal (BRO); 57D: "May I help you?" ("YES?").