THEME: "Jabbering Away x4"—The first three letters of four two-word phrases are synonyms (roughly) for JABBER
Four wildly divergent things are unified by nothing other than the short words hidden at their starts, so until you hit 40-Down there's a lot of "What the heck is going on here??" I liked the surprise that lay in wait. I liked the theme answers for being mostly the sort of things that are never included in crossword grids. And I liked the fill's use of less common letters (V, Y, K, J) to avoid staleness.
- 16A: India's first prime minister (JAWAHARLAL NEHRU). Isn't that fun to spell? (The answer is yes.) I have never used JAW as a verb but have seen it in crosswords plenty. "Talk at length, chatter," says my dictionary (New Oxford American's Mac widget). Anyone ever have a Nehru jacket? This '69 gas station commercial is what came up at YouTube when I searched for Nehru jackets. Boy, they don't make BP ads like that these days. (This is a good thing.)
- 22A: Washington wine region (YAKIMA VALLEY). Nowhere near as famous a wine name as Napa Valley, but YAKIMA is more fun to say. YAKking tends to be pejorative, no? Dictionary says: "talk at length about trivial or boring subjects." Oh, like this blog! (If you don't like crosswords, that is.)
- 43A: Chicago 'L,' e.g. (RAPID TRANSIT). To RAP is to "talk or chat in an easy or familiar manner," possibly talking all night.
- 51A: Part of a twill suit (GABARDINE JACKET). When I was a kid I thought gabardine sounded horribly stodgy and old-fashioned. I think that steel blue suit I rocked in the '90s was gabardine, though. To GAB is to "talk, typically at length, about trivial matters.
- 40D: Talk on and on, and a hint to the three-letter starts of 16-, 22-, 43- and 51-Across (JABBER).
- 33A: Malice (VENOM). These are both awesome words.
- 39A: Iraqi, for instance (ASIAN). Technically, everything from Turkey and Israel on east is in Asia. It's just not all East Asia, you know? I like the clue's off-kilter angle.
- 3D: Honeymooner, probably (NEWLYWED). How long had the Kramdens and Nortons been married? Why was that show called The Honeymooners?
- 6D: Polygamous household group (HAREM). I haven't watched the HBO series Big Love, but that's exactly where my mind went with this clue.
- 23D: Quaint complaint (ALAS). Oh, thank goodness it was ALAS and not, say, AH, ME. I went off on that Tuesday LAT answer in Facebook yesterday. Who says "ah, me"? Nobody, that's who! I want to obliterate that answer from crosswords.
- Va-va-voom: 24D: Medalworthy behavior (VALOR) is just one of the V words in the middle of the puzzle. VELDT, VENOM, VALUE, VIED.
- 34D: Tony's portrayer on "NYPD Blue" (ESAI). My husband and I were watching the new sci-fi series Caprica the other night. ESAI Morales plays a dad who's a Taurian, meaning he's from the planet of...Taurus? Tauria? I don't now. Caprica sounds like a Buick, doesn't it? I think it's another planet. Not sure why the place names sound like signs of the zodiac.
- Dan Naddor did it! He found a trivia fact about crossword constructors' favorite car that freshened up the clue. 45D: Last Olds off the line (ALERO). I checked Wikipedia and sure enough, it was the last Olds off the assembly line. You know what's sad? They saved the very last car and put it in a museum. Because isn't that how Oldsmobile should be remembered, with a dorky compact car?
Crosswordese 101: OREAD is one of several kinds of nymphs in Greek mythology. This one is both 29A: Nymph associated with Artemis and the nymph associated with mountains. (Orogeny is the formation of mountains—that oro-/or- beginning is the same.) Other nymphs seen in crosswords from time to time are the NAIAD (water nymph—rivers, streams, waterfalls), DRYAD (tree nymphs), and NEREID (sea nymph).
Everything Else — 1A: Bogs (FENS); 5A: New moon, e.g. (PHASE); 10A: Month, in Mexico (MES); 13A: Short article (ITEM); 14A: Memory mishap (LAPSE); 15A: Brewer's need (MALT); 16A: India's first prime minister (JAWAHARLAL NEHRU); 19A: Lead-in for suited or timed (ILL); 20A: Slurpee alternative (ICEE); 21A: Wrinkle-resistant fabric (ORLON); 22A: Washington wine region (YAKIMA VALLEY); 26A: Used the alley, in a way (BOWLED); 28A: Tweak, e.g. (ALTER); 29A: Nymph associated with Artemis (OREAD); 30A: Careful shopper's criterion (VALUE); 32A: Pea holders (PODS); 33A: Malice (VENOM); 34A: Thompson of "Sense and Sensibility" (EMMA); 38A: Taxpayer, e.g. (FILER); 39A: Iraqi, for instance (ASIAN); 40A: Subway Restaurants spokesman __ Fogle (JARED); 42A: Lake that's a source of the Mississippi (ITASCA); 43A: Chicago 'L,' e.g. (RAPID TRANSIT); 46A: Leg bone (TIBIA); 47A: Actress Sommer (ELKE); 48A: Model Landry (ALI); 51A: Part of a twill suit (GABARDINE JACKET); 55A: Southernmost cross-country U.S. highway (I-TEN); 56A: Rubberneck (STARE); 57A: Chick tenders (HENS); 58A: Away partner (FAR); 59A: Letter-shaped opening (T-SLOT); 60A: May race, for short (INDY); 1D: Pacific island nation (FIJI); 2D: Research paper abbr. (ET AL.); 3D: Honeymooner, probably (NEWLYWED); 4D: Wee, to Burns (SMA); 5D: Unruffled (PLACID); 6D: Polygamous household group (HAREM); 7D: Cop __ (A PLEA); 8D: FICA funds it (SSA); 9D: Sushi bar serving (EEL); 10D: "Symphony of a Thousand" composer (MAHLER); 11D: Judy Jetson's brother (ELROY); 12D: Leave speechless (STUN); 15D: First name in country (MERLE); 17D: Raised (HIKED); 18D: "The Prince of Tides" co-star (NOLTE); 23D: Quaint complaint (ALAS); 24D: Medalworthy behavior (VALOR); 25D: Homecoming guest (ALUM); 26D: Conk (BOP); 27D: Juegos OlÌmpicos goal (ORO); 30D: African grassland (VELDT); 31D: "Wheel of Fortune" purchase (AN E); 33D: Competed (VIED); 34D: Tony's portrayer on "NYPD Blue" (ESAI); 35D: All wet (MISTAKEN); 36D: Buddy (MAC); 37D: Santa __, seat of California's Orange County (ANA); 38D: Frock wearer (FRIAR); 39D: Confused (AT SEA); 40D: Talk on and on, and a hint to the three-letter starts of 16-, 22-, 43- and 51-Across (JABBER); 41D: Like some swarms (APIAN); 42D: Type of printer (INKJET); 43D: Gaucho's rope (RIATA); 44D: Related to the kidneys (RENAL); 45D: Last Olds off the line (ALERO); 46D: Cry after a hard week (TGIF); 49D: Extend credit (LEND); 50D: Minuscule (ITSY); 52D: It ends in Nov. (DST); 53D: Part of 46-Down (IT'S); 54D: Fraternity letter (CHI).