THEME: No theme today—It's a themeless/freestyle puzzle
Usually I use Across Lite with the timer running, but I solved this puzzle on a clipboard during my son's aikido class. My hunch is that many people will find it a little tougher than usual for a Saturday L.A. Times crossword. Yea? Nay?
My feelings about the puzzle are encapsulated by the first of the 15-letter answers: 17A: YOU CAN'T WIN 'EM ALL (Words of consolation). Wolfe wins big with the three 15s and racks up some other wins with assorted clues and fill, but then there are a few clunkers and a whole corner (the upper right) of badness. First up, the other winners:
- The remaining 15s: 36A: "Don't cry over spilt milk" (WHAT'S DONE IS DONE) and 54A: Sassy reply to criticism (IT'S A FREE COUNTRY). These, like 17A, are fantastic. They're all things we say colloquially, and you can hear a "hey" or "ya know" preceding all of 'em.
- 20A: Día de San Valentín sentiment (TE AMO). I think the L.A. Times crossword requires a little more Spanish familiarity than the New York–based puzzles do, which makes sense because there's so much Spanish spoken in California. I've never seen "St. Valentine's Day" rendered in Spanish, but it's not too hard to work it out.
- 45A: Good thing to be up to (SNUFF). Other clueing options include the verb (negative, snuffing out) and the tobacco (bleh). "Up to SNUFF" is great, and the clue can lead you astray in a good Saturday-puzzle way. Up to no good, up to your ears, up to par, up to the challenge—are there any other 5-letter answers that make sense that you tried here?
- 4D: Bounce (RICOCHET). Cool word. You ever get Augusto Pinochet mixed up with RICOCHET? No? Me, neither.
- I like the clue in 23D: Arm holder? (HOLSTER). Not that kind of arm.
- 55D: Old-fashioned word of disapproval (FIE). I'm bringin' it back! Join me, won't you?
There were some other spots that grated:
- 39A: Fish tales (TALL STORIES). Wait, don't we call 'em "fish stories" and "tall tales"? TALL STORIES sound like the upper floors in a highrise.
- 48A: Wasn't true (LIED). I'm not convinced there's true equivalency here. If you LIED about something, it's not that you yourself weren't true—it's that what you said wasn't true. The thing that isn't true is the lie, not the liar. Yes? No?
- 61A: View for 6-Down (TREETOPS). 6D is SANTA. If you had the TOPS part of this answer, did you want ROOFTOPS rather than TREETOPS? Does anyone picture Santa flying over (and looking at) treetops? I would've clued this without a cross-reference to Santa, who isn't closely associated with treetops.
- 18D: Out of the running (NOT IN IT). At first I really liked this answer. But then I got to thinking, is this used in the negative? Sports teams and candidates can definitely be still "in it," with a chance to win. Does anyone say NOT IN IT? "Sadly, the Bears are NOT IN IT."
Then there's Frankie VALLI (58A: Big name in falsetto) and the Four Seasons. In 1975, my sister and I bought the 45 of this song, so I'm partial to it even though "Sherry" and "Walk Like a Man" display the falsetto more acutely.
Crosswordese 101: Today's lesson is about numerals that get spelled out as words pretty much only in crosswords. This puzzle has 47D: Rte. through six Eastern state capitals (U.S. ONE)—you know, U.S. 1? It's a convention of crosswording that a number can be spelled out in the grid regardless of how it appears in real life. Thus, we get answers like ONED, TWOD, and THREED (1D, 2D, 3D, speaking dimensionally). Not to mention the draft status ONEA (1-A). The flying BTWO (B2 bomber), which is not what's next in the series after Lawrence Welk's ATWO. And, heaven help us, UTWO (the rock band U2). I'm not sure if anyone actually likes such entries. Sure, they help constructors get their fill to work, but they fly in the face of common usage and routinely vex crossword solvers who aren't expecting them. Google traffic to crossword blogs shoots up whenever ONED or TWOD shows up in the grid, as solvers are confronted with what appears to be a 4-letter word that isn't in their dictionary. So be ready for the spelled-out number nonsense, people. It will return.
See you on Wednesday.
Everything Else — 1A: Cellbound? (IN PRISON); 9A: Activates (TRIPS); 14A: Sanctioned (VALIDATED); 16A: Brownish pigment (SEPIA); 17A: Words of consolation (YOU CAN'T WIN 'EM ALL); 19A: Group with PCPs (HMO); 20A: Día de San Valentín sentiment (TE AMO); 21A: Carbon compound (ENOL); 22A: Boardroom illustration (CHART); 24A: Letter-shaped hardware used to strengthen joints (T-PLATE); 26A: Fish also called a blue jack (COHO); 28A: Bravo maker (FIAT); 29A: See a pro, say (TAKE LESSONS); 33A: __ blue (SKY); 36A: "Don't cry over spilt milk" (WHAT'S DONE IS DONE); 38A: Vague quantity (ANY); 39A: Fish tales (TALL STORIES); 40A: Chilean bread (PESO); 41A: Submit formally (FILE); 42A: Back on the water (ASTERN); 45A: Good thing to be up to (SNUFF); 48A: Wasn't true (LIED); 49A: __ Peters, author of Brother Cadfael mysteries (ELLIS); 51A: Intercepting device (TAP); 54A: Sassy reply to criticism (IT'S A FREE COUNTRY); 58A: Big name in falsetto (VALLI); 59A: Street hazard (OPEN SEWER); 60A: Take out, in a way (ERASE); 61A: View for 6-Down (TREETOPS); 1D: Creeper (IVY); 2D: Sodium hydroxide, in chem class (NAOH); 3D: Juicy fruit (PLUM); 4D: Bounce (RICOCHET); 5D: State with a panhandle: Abbr. (IDA.); 6D: Flier over 61-Across (SANTA); 7D: Web-footed mammal (OTTER); 8D: Not experienced in (NEW AT); 9D: Literary monogram (TSE); 10D: Do a foundry job (REMELT); 11D: Old toothpaste with a spokesbeaver (IPANA); 12D: Fly (PILOT); 13D: Maison room (SALLE); 15D: Not too smart (DIM); 18D: Out of the running (NOT IN IT); 23D: Arm holder? (HOLSTER); 25D: Falsely present (as) (PASS OFF); 26D: Four-time Oscar-winning lyricist (CAHN); 27D: Fine (OKAY); 28D: Antagonists (FOES); 29D: Defunct carrier (TWA); 30D: "Roots" Emmy winner (ED ASNER); 31D: Helpless? (SOLO); 32D: NBC hit since '75 (SNL); 33D: Land (SOIL); 34D: Joint with a cap (KNEE); 35D: "Works for me" (YES); 37D: Fisherman's aid that floats with the current (DRIFT NET); 40D: Rides on a path, perhaps (PEDALS); 42D: Full of energy (ALIVE); 43D: Indian strings (SITAR); 44D: Magnetic induction unit (TESLA); 45D: Nodded (SLEPT); 46D: More pleasant (NICER); 47D: Rte. through six Eastern state capitals (US ONE); 50D: Fifth sign (LEO); 52D: Welk's upbeat (A-TWO); 53D: __ school (PREP); 55D: Old-fashioned word of disapproval (FIE); 56D: Deploy (USE); 57D: Vintage nos. (YRS.).