THEME: CHIN! — or maybe CHON, as "CH-" goes "on" to the ends of familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, etc.
A Doug Peterson Friday goes down in 4:07!? Am I dreaming? Is the snow covering my house, car, dogs, etc. magical? Magical speed-solving snow? (note to self: call cocaine people with new sales pitch idea) I was actually disappointed to have so little trouble with this one, as Doug Peterson is one of the best constructors around and his puzzles are almost always a joy to solve, even when they are Newsday Saturday Stumpers that take me the better part of an hour. This isn't the most interesting theme in the world, and the resulting theme answers are just OK, but I wish constructors would study Doug's grids to see the care that goes into them. This grid is absolutely devoid of made-up, iffy, "it's-*kind*-of-a-word" crap. Any grid with lots of three- and four-letter words is going to have boring stuff, and some repeaters (crosswordese) — that's OK. What's not OK is the stuff that makes you *wince*, esp. when said stuff is patently unnecessary. The cleanness of Doug's grids separates him from other constructors who just churn it out and coast on the (presumed) cuteness of their themes.
Today, everywhere you look, real words. Abbrevs. are few and solid. Ditto prefixes. Longish Downs are all at least interesting, and I really like HERCULEAN (11D: Requiring superhuman effort), WHITERICE (32D: Jambalaya basic), and PUBLICAN (38D: Tavern keeper). Also, RUB (46A: Meat seasoning mixture) / BURP (43D: Tupperware sound) intersection is cute in that it reminds me of burping a baby, and SCREW (48D: Thread site) / SHIRE (56A: Talia of "The Godfather") — or SCREW / LOEWE (62A: "Brigadoon" composer), depending on your temperament — has an enjoyable dynamic oomph.
- 20A: Taking pictures of potatoes and pasta? (SHOOTING STARCH)
- 30A: Trapdoor in an Old West saloon? (COWBOY HATCH)
- 40A: Group of show-offs? (HOT DOG BUNCH)
- 54A: Spiel from a maestro? (ORCHESTRA PITCH)
Crosswordese 101: ASAHI (2D: Leading Japanese brewery) — 60% vowels, short word ending in "I" — those two qualities make this a valuable (if not overwhelmingly common) crossword answer, one you are apt to see on mid-to-late-week puzzles. I was lucky today, as I had an ASAHI at a soba noodle joint in Manhattan less than a week ago, so it sprang straight to mind. Apparently both Matsui and Dice-K dig the taste — check 'em out, slugging and drinking, pitching and slugging and drinking and smiling...
- 1A: Predatory group (PACK) — got it right off the bat, no crosses. I often have wolves on the brain.
- 25A: DJIA part: Abbr. (AVG.) — dear god please never ever ever let "DJIA" appear in a puzzle — stands for Dow Jones Industrial AVG.
- 37A: Lee who founded the Shakers (ANN) — yay, I remembered this time. Boo, I thought it had some weird spelling like "ANE."
- 30D: Crunch's rank (CAP'N) — awesome clue that took me many passes to understand. Had the same issue (though less enjoyably) with SCREW (48D: Thread site).
See you Monday.
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Everything Else — 1A: Predatory group (PACK); 5A: Grifter's ploy (SCAM); 9A: Jerk (SCHMO); 14A: Stadium near Citi Field (ASHE); 15A: Pear, for one (POME); 16A: From the other side (THEIR); 17A: Topical treatment (BALM); 18A: Bring down (RUIN); 19A: Has coming (EARNS); 20A: Taking pictures of potatoes and pasta? (SHOOTING STARCH); 23A: Has a connection with (TIES INTO); 24A: Diamond brothers' surname (ALOU); 25A: DJIA part: Abbr. (AVG.); 26A: PC key under Z (ALT); 27A: Circuit (LAP); 30A: Trapdoor in an Old West saloon? (COWBOY HATCH); 35A: "Baudolino" novelist (ECO); 36A: Massage target (ACHE); 37A: Lee who founded the Shakers (ANN); 38A: Ink holders (PADS); 39A: Sixers, on a scoreboard (PHI); 40A: Group of show-offs? (HOTDOG BUNCH); 44A: "Kidding!" ("NOT!"); 45A: Project's conclusion? (ILE); 46A: Meat seasoning mixture (RUB); 47A: Chiseled abbr. (ESTD.); 49A: Like radon (ODORLESS); 54A: Spiel from a maestro? (ORCHESTRAPITCH); 56A: Talia of "The Godfather" (SHIRE); 57A: Harrow rival (ETON); 58A: Sound after ah (CHOO); 59A: Less brusque (NICER); 60A: Kevin's "Tin Cup" co-star (RENE); 61A: In a bit, poetically (ANON); 62A: "Brigadoon" composer (LOEWE); 63A: Sibling, in dialect (BRER); 64A: Casual dissent (NOPE); 1D: Brewer Frederick (PABST); 2D: Leading Japanese brewery (ASAHI); 3D: Lover of Daphnis (CHLOE); 4D: Friend in old Westerns? (KEMOSABE); 5D: Elastic (SPRINGY); 6D: Matter (COUNT); 7D: Pl·cido's pal (AMIGO); 8D: Retail store department (MENS); 9D: Tiger's asset (STEALTH); 10D: "Cuchi-cuchi" entertainer (CHARO); 11D: Requiring superhuman effort (HERCULEAN); 12D: Ho Chi __ City (MINH); 13D: Hosp. areas (ORS); 21D: Record, in a way (TIVO); 22D: Powder source (TALC); 26D: "... __ additional cost to you!" (AT NO); 28D: Elec. designation (AC/DC); 29D: Ritzy (POSH); 30D: Crunch's rank (CAP'N); 31D: Cuatro doubled (OCHO); 32D: Jambalaya basic (WHITE RICE); 33D: Find repugnant (HATE); 34D: So-so center? (AND); 38D: Tavern keeper (PUBLICAN); 40D: "Howdy!" ("HI THERE!"); 41D: Shoppe modifier (OLDE); 42D: Pun, often (GROANER); 43D: Tupperware sound (BURP); 48D: Thread site (SCREW); 49D: Weasel relative (OTTER); 50D: Mindless worker (DRONE); 51D: Prefix with centric (ETHNO-); 52D: Exclusive story (SCOOP); 53D: Performed superbly (SHONE); 54D: Wheeling's river (OHIO); 55D: Balkan native (SERB); 56D: Show with a "Weekend Update" segment, briefly (SNL).