THEME: MM to MP — change a letter, get a wacky answer...
One of 20 Dan Naddor puzzles still in the LAT pipeline (according to the lovely LAT obituary published the other day), so his fans have a lot to look forward to.
Found this one more challenging than the usual change-a-letter puzzle. Took me a while to get the theme — actually had to stop and look at the first two theme answers to figure out what it was because I was getting Nowhere with the front ends of the last three theme answers. Once I divined the premise, I was able to get those last three theme answers pretty easily and finish the thing off. I have one major criticism of this puzzle: a patch of 12 contiguous squares in the south-west-central part of the puzzle that I really, really wish I could excise and replace with something else, because the answers involved are all super-ugly abbreviations / contractions. This answer bloc includes the parallel Downs TFR, DESC, and EV'RY, as well as the "T" from TRS. Any one of these might have passed without notice (least jarring is EV'RY), but as a clump, they're borderline intolerable. I didn't know what TFR (31D: Mil. request) or DESC (39D: Invoice column hdg.) ("HDG.!!!?") even was — had to look both up when I was done ("transfer" and "description" (!) respectively). The "S" at TRS / DESC intersection was a flat-out (if slightly educated) guess.
- 18A: Cool body shop specialist? (bumper dude) — my favorite of the lot, as imagining the origin phrase makes me laugh.
- 23A: Apple shipping vehicles? (computer trains)
- 36A: Like overcrowded medical clinics? (cramped for exams)
- 47A: Short, fat pen filler? (dumpy cartridge)
- 54A: Laundry security device? (hamper lock)
- 10A: Keyboardist Hess (MYRA) — nooooooo idea. She's a pianist. Why "keyboardist?"
- 2D: Pop-jazz band named for an algae genus (Spyro Gyra) — not very pop. Had totally forgotten about them until I had almost every cross filled in.
- 1A: Mil. awards (DSCs) — will do everything in my power to avoid mil. award abbreviations, of any type. So common, so various, so blech. This one stands for "Distinguished Service Cross."
Lastly, love the unintentional dogness of the puzzle. The NIP from a LAB PUP, and of course an ARF (here, clued correctly, as a simple [Pound sound]).
See you Monday,
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
Everything Else — 1A: Mil. awards (DSCS); 5A: Pro's employee (AGENT); 10A: Keyboardist Hess (MYRA); 14A: Colorful deepwater fish (OPAH); 15A: Sylvester's "Rocky" co-star (TALIA); 16A: Like The Citadel, today (COED); 17A: High-tech unit (BYTE); 18A: Cool body shop specialist? (BUMPER DUDE); 20A: Destructive spree (RAMPAGE); 22A: Perrier rival (EVIAN); 23A: Apple shipping vehicles? (COMPUTER TRAINS); 26A: Ottoman officer (AGA); 27A: E-mail endings, at times (PSS); 28A: Staff (ROD); 29A: Inexperienced one (TYRO); 31A: Coffee-flavored liqueur (TIA MARIA); 36A: Like overcrowded medical clinics? (CRAMPED FOR EXAMS); 40A: Toot consequence (HANGOVER); 41A: Car with a bar (LIMO); 42A: __-80: old RadioShack computer (TRS); 43A: Lee side: Abbr. (CSA); 46A: Palindromic diarist (NIN); 47A: Short, fat pen filler? (DUMPY CARTRIDGE); 52A: Important peninsula in the Six-Day War, 1967 (SINAI); 53A: Pursue (GO AFTER); 54A: Laundry security device? (HAMPER LOCK); 57A: Much more than tickle (SLAY); 59A: "The __ lama, he's a priest ...": Nash (ONE L); 60A: Arigato : Japan :: __ : Germany (DANKE); 61A: Pal (MATE); 62A: Evening spread? (PATE); 63A: Hardly a miniature gulf (ABYSS); 64A: Regards (EYES); 1D: Baseball card stat (DOB); 2D: Pop-jazz band named for an algae genus (SPYRO GYRA); 3D: Twin-hulled boat (CATAMARAN); 4D: Curly's predecessor and successor (SHEMP); 5D: Turns to swing (AT BATS); 6D: Measuring instruments (GAUGES); 7D: Cartoon hunter (ELMER); 8D: Snort (NIP); 9D: __ Bo (TAE); 10D: Early 15th century year (MCDVI); 11D: Dealer's query (YOU IN); 12D: __ a beet (RED AS); 13D: City SSE of Sana'a (ADEN); 19D: Text file with program instructions (READ ME); 21D: __ tent (PUP); 23D: Call during a toss (CATCH); 24D: The Supremes, e.g. (TRIO); 25D: Engine sound (ROAR); 30D: Texter's "Yikes!" (OMG); 31D: Mil. request (TFR.); 32D: Rose of rock (AXL); 33D: Result of an ump's decision, maybe (RAIN DELAY); 34D: Come to a new land (IMMIGRATE); 35D: Together (AS ONE); 37D: Crusty entrée (POTPIE); 38D: "Climb __ Mountain": "The Sound of Music" song (EV'RY); 39D: Invoice column hdg. (DESC.); 43D: Stew holders (CROCKS); 44D: They may be raised during a game (STAKES); 45D: Pound sound (ARF); 47D: Grammy winner Krall (DIANA); 48D: Not yet fulfilled (UNMET); 49D: Sugar source (MAPLE); 50D: Torment (AGONY); 51D: Bell ringer's reply (IT'S ME); 52D: Artisan's work area (SHOP); 55D: Food no. usually shown in milligrams (RDA); 56D: Chemist's work area (LAB); 58D: "Amen!" ("YES!").