Today's constructor, Gareth Bain, doesn't have a clue what I'm going on about. It's summertime in South Africa, where he lives. It's probably 35° there...but in Celsius, and roasting hot.
Gareth e-mailed me today, certain that I was going to ask him about the timing of his puzzle submission. Turns out he sent this puzzle to Rich Norris back on May 11—and then settled in to do Fred Piscop's NYT crossword with a very similar theme. Not only did that Monday puzzle pretty much slip from my memory (it's the Thursday through Sunday puzzles I find most memorable), but hey, there aren't so many hardcore puzzlers who are routinely solving both the NYT and LAT crosswords. So it's not a problem, Gareth wasn't copying off of Fred, and the only harm done is to anyone who demands only never-before-seen themes. When it comes to easyish crossword themes, there are so many ideas that get recycled by constructors who come up with the same idea independently.
THEME: ♪ "They're a Crossword Theme" ♫—Four song titles fit the "[pronoun]'S A [noun]" structure
- 17A: 1966 Monkees hit (I'M A BELIEVER). This one was also in Fred's puzzle.
- 65A: 1968 Impressions hit (WE'RE A WINNER). This one is markedly less familiar than the other three songs in the puzzle. Fred had YOU'RE SO VAIN, which means Fred's puzzle had all familiar songs, but three "[pronoun]'S A [noun]" with a single "YOU'RE SO VAIN."
- 11D: 1971 Tom Jones hit (SHE'S A LADY). Also in Fred's.
- 36D: 1962 hit attributed to The Crystals but sung by The Blossoms (HE'S A REBEL). In Fred's, but clued there as [1962 Crystals hit].
I've never been a Tom Jones fan, so here's another "Lady" song:
Teenage crossword constructor Caleb Madison recently had his picture taken with Aerosmith's Steven Tyler on the streets of New York, and posted the photo on Facebook. I swear I thought it was a 40-something woman with Caleb. Dude totally looks like a lady. Now he's in rehab.
- Literary fill-in-the-blanks! 7A: "Is this __ time ... to talk of Pensions and Grenadiers?": Sterne (A FIT) and 22A: "'Beware the Jabberwock, __!'" (MY SON). I batted .500 here. I'm not up on my Sterne. Maybe Rex is. He's got a Ph.D. in English lit (and comic books).
- 28A: "M*A*S*H" nickname (HOT LIPS). Maj. Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan, played by Loretta Swit on TV and Sally Kellerman in the movie.
- 42A: How some suits are made (TO ORDER). In my lifetime, I've had one garment made to order. I was keen on having a jumpsuit in about 1975, so my mother commissioned a seamstress to make one for me. It was rust-colored twill with a fabric belt, and I loved it so.
- 71A: State that's only nine mi. wide at its narrowest point (DEL.). Delaware has that skinny part, you know, and it's quite teeny to begin with.
- 7D: Biting (ACERBIC). Bonus points to Gareth for using ACERBIC and not the basically crosswordese form ACERB, which is seldom seen in the wild.
- 25D: Earthmoving machine, and hopefully not the one driving it (DOZER). My favorite clue today.
- 29D: G-and-T part (TONIC). I blanked briefly on what a G-and-T is: gin and tonic. I'm not a fan of tonic myself; too bitter. I'll bet at least three commenters have a favorite gin cocktail to tell us about. Mine is the Tom Collins: gin, soda water, sugar, and lemon or lime juice. It's the sugar that wins me over every time.
Crosswordese 101: Have we really not covered the French phrase à la here? I mean, it's pretty basic, and the clues probably don't fool anyone unless they're not expecting a two-word fragment of a longer phrase for a fill-in-the-blank clue like 39A: __ carte; . Top clues for A LA include In the style of; Like; In the manner of; According to; Pie ___ mode; Menu phrase; Chicken ___ king; Carte start; and, for a little variety, the abbreviation for Alabama, with a clue like Miss. neighbor. Many people in my generation learned the phrase from Sesame Street Muppet magician the Amazing Mumford and his catchphrase, "A la peanut butter sandwiches!"
Everything Else — 1A: Distinguishing feature (CACHET); 7A: "Is this __ time ... to talk of Pensions and Grenadiers?": Sterne (A FIT); 11A: Wailing instrument (SAX); 14A: Hit the big time (ARRIVE); 15A: Quote, as a source (CITE); 16A: Dress bottom (HEM); 17A: 1966 Monkees hit (I'M A BELIEVER); 19A: Bard's "prior to" (ERE); 20A: Bright star (NOVA); 21A: Basic French verb (ETRE); 22A: "'Beware the Jabberwock, __!'" (MY SON); 24A: Warehouse stamp letters (RECD); 26A: "Washboard" muscles (ABS); 27A: Briny expanse (SEA); 28A: "M*A*S*H" nickname (HOT LIPS); 31A: Put on the hi-fi (PLAY); 34A: Wildly eccentric, briefly (SCHIZO); 37A: Sniffling and sneezing cause (COLD); 39A: __ carte (A LA); 40A: Roll call response (PRESENT); 42A: How some suits are made (TO ORDER); 44A: Toys __ (R US); 45A: Wild outbreak (RIOT); 47A: Victimized, with "on" (PREYED); 48A: Wine bottle datum (YEAR); 50A: Original iPod, as it's now known (CLASSIC); 52A: Narrow inlet (RIA); 54A: Chick __: light women's fiction (LIT); 55A: Nordic runners (SKIS); 58A: Knight's job (QUEST); 60A: Ice sheet (FLOE); 62A: Burned, in a way (ON CD); 64A: City area, briefly (URB); 65A: 1968 Impressions hit (WE'RE A WINNER); 68A: Get older (AGE); 69A: Yemen city on its own gulf (ADEN); 70A: Early ascetic (ESSENE); 71A: State that's only nine mi. wide at its narrowest point (DEL.); 72A: Had second thoughts about (RUED); 73A: Put away for later (STORED); 1D: Abel's slayer (CAIN); 2D: Knight suit (ARMOR); 3D: Have a jones for (CRAVE); 4D: Japanese grills (HIBACHIS); 5D: Noted victim of temptation (EVE); 6D: Prefix with vision (TELE-); 7D: Biting (ACERBIC); 8D: Fin (FIVE SPOT); 9D: Meteor ending (-ITE); 10D: Contract details (TERMS); 11D: 1971 Tom Jones hit (SHE'S A LADY); 12D: Related to flying (AERO); 13D: Marvel Comics superheroes (X-MEN); 18D: Emphatic type: Abbr. (ITAL.); 23D: "Sho 'nuff" ("YEP"); 25D: Earthmoving machine, and hopefully not the one driving it (DOZER); 29D: G-and-T part (TONIC); 30D: Spills, as from a bucket (SLOPS); 32D: Sheltered, in a way (ALEE); 33D: Place for a sale (YARD); 34D: Nimble (SPRY); 35D: Rockers Mötley __ (CRÜE); 36D: 1962 hit attributed to The Crystals but sung by The Blossoms (HE'S A REBEL); 38D: Day of films (DORIS); 41D: Like 1-800 numbers (TOLL-FREE); 43D: "I guess" ("RECKON SO"); 46D: Last bit (TAIL END); 49D: Grafton's "__ for Ricochet" (R IS); 51D: One often bordered an agora (STOA); 53D: Clashing big-time (AT WAR); 56D: __ tube (INNER); 57D: Part of an act (SCENE); 58D: Campus area (QUAD); 59D: Yearning (URGE); 61D: Rams' dams (EWES); 63D: Scott in an 1857 case (DRED); 66D: Campus URL ending (EDU); 67D: Performer's suffix (-IST).