THEME: No theme today—It's a themeless/freestyle puzzle
This puppy's a little more rigorous than most Saturday L.A. Times crosswords. While the six 15-letter answers are casual and familiar, there are shorter answers tucked in there that are less familiar. And there are also some tough clues to give your brain more of a workout.
The long answers:
- 14A. [Dating option] (DINNER AND A MOVIE). Much more popular than the "breakfast and a movie" option.
- 17A. [Thank-you trinket, e.g.] (INEXPENSIVE GIFT). I'm not sure whether this one rises to the level of crossword-worthy fill. Is it more of a discrete concept than random adjective + suitable noun?
- 24A. ["My mind isn't made up yet"] ("I CAN'T SAY FOR SURE"). I can't say for sure, but this might be the first time I've seen this crossword answer.
- Hey, hey, hey! 44A. ["You've got a lot of nerve!"] ("WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?").
- 57A. [Retaliatory steps] (COUNTERMEASURES). There aren't a ton of good 15-letter words out there. This one's decent.
- 61A. [Ups and downs of one's youth?] (TEETER-TOTTERING). Now, when I was a kid, you rode the teeter-totter but I don't think we verbed it. "Seesawing" sounds more verby to me, but the dictionary does have "teeter-totter" as a verb.
Shorter stuff worthy of note:
- 36A. [Hindu fire god] (AGNI). I seldom remember this one because the name sounds more Norse than Hindu/Vedic to me.
- 43A. [French cathedral city] (METZ). This one is sometimes forgettable because METZ sounds German. Another sneaky French town is Dunkirk, which sounds English or Scottish to me.
- 64A. [Capital on Upolu Island] (APIA). That's the capital of Samoa, population 32,000.
- 1D. [Jack Kerouac's first wife] (EDIE). Huh? I'm not sure why one would be expected to know this. Does he write about her by name?
- 4D. [Michael Hutchence's band] (INXS). Time for a music video featuring a song that was a hit when I was in high school.
- 10D. [Old Venetian magistrate] (DOGE). A worthy candidate for a future Crosswordese 101.
- 12D. [It's "too short for chess": Henry J. Byron] (LIFE). I like the way Henry J. Byron thinks.
- 13D. [Neighbor of an Estonian] (LETT). Old-fashioned name for a Latvian. Also a ripe Crosswordese 101 candidate.
- 15D. [Solar year/lunar year differential] (EPACT). Say what? Never heard the word. For a primer on lunar years, click that Wikipedia link. A lunar year is about 354 days, while a solar year is about 365 days. The EPACT comes into play when calculating Easter's schedule, apparently.
- 25D. [Signaler in a box] (COACH). Which sport stores the COACH in a box?
- 38D. [Rock-throwing protesters] (STONERS). Heh. Here's a non-rock-throwing stoner:
- 53D. [___ Mountains, which separate the Rhine and the Rhone] (JURA). Whoa. Not common in the crosswordese department. You'll never guess when most of this mountain range's rocks were laid down. Go ahead, guess. The Jurassic period! Which was named after the JURA Mountains! Who knew? They're on the French/Swiss border.
- 55D. [Caesarean opening] (VENI). As in the opening word of Caesar's famous "Veni, vidi, vici" ("I came, I saw, I conquered"). Not the name for the hole in the womb sliced open by an OB doing a C-section.
Crosswordese 101: The 34A clue, [Oka River city], includes a crosswordese river we've discussed, the OKA. That city is OREL. It's in Russia, it's south of Moscow, and Turgenev was born there. But you may know it better as the first name of baseball great OREL Hershiser. He pitched, won the Cy Young Award, and was World Series MVP in 1988. He has since moved on to being an ESPN sportscaster.
Everything Else — 1A: Spoiled sci-fi race (ELOI); 5A: Engage in a high-tech scam (PHISH); 10A: High-tech mogul Michael (DELL); 14A: Dating option (DINNER AND A MOVIE); 17A: Thank-you trinket, e.g. (INEXPENSIVE GIFT); 18A: Arachnid's hatching pouch (EGG SAC); 19A: Hole in your shoe? (EYELET); 20A: Lemon-colored quartz (CITRINE); 24A: "My mind isn't made up yet" (I CAN'T SAY FOR SURE); 32A: Ill-advised move (NO-NO); 33A: German-born surrealist (ERNST); 34A: Oka River city (OREL); 35A: Stretched out (LAIN); 36A: Hindu fire god (AGNI); 37A: Peak (ACME); 38A: Perfect Sleeper maker (SERTA); 43A: French cathedral city (METZ); 44A: "You've got a lot of nerve!" (WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA); 47A: Extra (TO SPARE); 48A: Like chinchillas (ANDEAN); 52A: It may accompany a new experience (DEJA-VU); 57A: Retaliatory steps (COUNTER MEASURES); 61A: Ups and downs of one's youth? (TEETER-TOTTERING); 62A: What's more (ALSO); 63A: Have a feeling (SENSE); 64A: Capital on Upolu Island (APIA); 1D: Jack Kerouac's first wife (EDIE); 2D: Ding-a-__ (LING); 3D: Universal donor's type, briefly (O NEG); 4D: Michael Hutchence's band (INXS); 5D: Exact (PRECISE); 6D: River to the Yangtze (HAN); 7D: Former green card agcy. (INS); 8D: Reagan mil. program (SDI); 9D: One living in poverty (HAVE NOT); 10D: Old Venetian magistrate (DOGE); 11D: Dark (EVIL); 12D: It's "too short for chess": Henry J. Byron (LIFE); 13D: Neighbor of an Estonian (LETT); 15D: Solar year/lunar year differential (EPACT); 16D: "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" director Nicholas (MEYER); 21D: Sea dog (TAR); 22D: Rembrandt van __ (RYN); 23D: They may happen (IFS); 24D: Oft-maligned kin (IN-LAW); 25D: Signaler in a box (COACH); 26D: Jung's inner self (ANIMA); 27D: The Muses, e.g. (NONET); 28D: "Likewise" (SO AM I); 29D: Pressed (URGED); 30D: Income, in Cannes (RENTE); 31D: The "her" in Broadway's "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" (ELIZA); 38D: Rock-throwing protesters (STONERS); 39D: Words of doubt (EHS); 40D: Good name (REP); 41D: Abbr. for an unknown 42-Down (TBA); 42D: When something is on (AIR DATE); 45D: Express (STATE); 46D: Honkers (GEESE); 48D: Washington Nationals manager Manny (ACTA); 49D: December song (NOEL); 50D: Member's payment (DUES); 51D: Prefix with -zoic (ENTO); 53D: __ Mountains, which separate the Rhine and the Rhone (JURA); 54D: "What __!": "I've been had!" (A RIP); 55D: Caesarean opening (VENI); 56D: Links-governing org. (USGA); 58D: Numbered hwy. (RTE.); 59D: Calendar col. (MON); 60D: X-files subjects, for short (ETS).