THEME: German puns — familiar phrases where puns are created by turning one word into its (roughly) homophonic equivalent in German. Wacky phrase, "?" clues.
Hey, these puns are actually good. Nice change of pace from the groan-inducing or the simply off. I was sort of tepid toward the theme until I hit AUDI NEIGHBOR, which won me over. Thank god this wasn't AUDI DOODY. Would hate to see the clue on that.
The German things include not only words from the German language, but a product (AUDI) and three names (BACH, KOHL, MARX). A whopping seven theme answers are crammed into the grid, and yet the overall fill, all things considered, is pretty smooth. I have never seen the word QUANTA (43D: Amounts), but after QUANTS didn't work, it was the next best alternative. My biggest problem, time-wise, was in the west, where, for reasons I don't quite understand, I couldn't put SHOW / DOTS together. I may have had DITS or DATS originally at 25D: Bitmap components), and I couldn't make any sense of 30A: Place follower, even with SH-W in place. SHAW? Did somebody named SHAW follow ETTA Place around? Oh. No. If you don't win, or "place," you might SHOW. Pretty obvious, in retrospect.
- 17A: German version of GQ? (HERR STYLE)
- 18A: Section reserved for a German composer? (BACH'S SEATS)
- 23A: Car parked next to a German sedan? (AUDI NEIGHBOR)
- 35A: Germans living in the fast lane? (AUTOBAHN SOCIETY)
- 43A: Give a German philosopher the third degree? (QUESTION MARX)
- 52A: Former German chancellor's coffee sweetener? (LUMP OF KOHL) — [Result of a blow to a former German chancellor's head?] ... too gruesome?
- 59A: Causes for alarm in the West German capital? (BONN FIRES)
Crosswordese 101: MEDE (54D: Ancient Persian) — these are the Persians of Herodotus. That's how I know about them, anyway. Often I have to learn these exotic bits of crosswordiana the hard way — from the crossword itself. Here, I actually had some inkling of what MEDEs were from my normal, non-puzzle education (shout-out to Professor Cameron and the Great Books program at U. Michigan, which I was lucky enough to be allowed to teach in for a year, 1998-99). Cyrus the Great put an end to the Medean Empire in the 6c. B.C., taking the name "King of Persia."
- 1A: "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" subject (COMMA) — grrr. GRAMMAR wouldn't fit. Put in USAGE. COMMA is the very specific issue involved in the book's (jokey) title.
- 14A: James teammate (O'NEAL) — as in Shaquille. "James" here is LeBron James, the best NBA'ER currently in the league (besides, arguably, Kobe Bryant).
- 58D: 19th-century military family (LEES) — possibly the ancestors of Mariners' pitcher Cliff LEE, who was recently suspended for the first 5 games of the upcoming MLB season for engaging in a little military practice of his own — specifically, trying to take the head off of a batter with his fastball.
See you Monday,
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
Everything Else — 1A: "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" subject (COMMA); 6A: Interim measures (STOPGAPS); 14A: James teammate (O'NEAL); 15A: Provided home security, in a way (HOUSESAT); 16A: Cousin of danke (MERCI); 17A: German version of GQ? (HERR STYLE); 18A: Section reserved for a German composer? (BACH'S SEATS); 20A: Freshman, probably (TEEN); 21A: Lubricate (OIL); 22A: Back in (RETRO); 23A: Car parked next to a German sedan? (AUDI NEIGHBOR); 30A: Place follower (SHOW); 31A: Put out (EMIT); 32A: Comrade (PAL); 35A: Germans living in the fast lane? (AUTOBAHN SOCIETY); 40A: Acidity-level symbols (PHS); 41A: Manitoba tribe (CREE); 42A: Prolific auth.? (ANON); 43A: Give a German philosopher the third degree? (QUESTION MARX); 47A: Relish (EAT UP); 50A: Bossy remark? (MOO); 51A: La __ Tar Pits (BREA); 52A: Former German chancellor's coffee sweetener? (LUMP OF KOHL); 59A: Causes for alarm in the West German capital? (BONN FIRES); 61A: Excessive (UNDUE); 62A: In a tight row (END TO END); 63A: Paris bisector (SEINE); 64A: Relieve, as of mistaken ideas (DISABUSE); 65A: Searches for (SEEKS); 1D: Search thoroughly (COMB); 2D: Ready to serve (ONE-A); 3D: Cougar or Sable, briefly (MERC); 4D: Speed ratio (MACH); 5D: "The Nowhere City" author Lurie (ALISON); 6D: Subway Series stadium (SHEA); 7D: Suit material? (TORT); 8D: Couple's word (OURS); 9D: Afterthoughts, briefly (PSS); 10D: Go-__ (GETTER); 11D: So far (AS YET); 12D: Not as flushed (PALER); 13D: Dictator's assistant? (STENO); 17D: Prefix with pad (HELI-); 19D: "Sprechen __ Deutsch?" (SIE); 22D: Univ. recruiter (ROTC); 23D: Quickly, in memos (ASAP); 24D: "Don't think so" ("UH-UH"); 25D: Bitmap components (DOTS); 26D: '40s flag-raising site, briefly (IWO); 27D: "The Maids" playwright (GENET); 28D: Pinafore letters (HMS); 29D: Short life story? (BIO); 32D: 2003 A.L. Manager of the Year Tony (PEÑA); 33D: Fabric finish? (-ATOR); 34D: Bobcat, e.g. (LYNX); 36D: Support spec (B CUP); 37D: "Chances __": Mathis hit (ARE); 38D: Men (HES); 39D: Sam-__ (I-AM); 43D: Amounts (QUANTA); 44D: Little rascals (IMPS); 45D: Hugs, in letters (OOO); 46D: Easy to use, in adspeak (NO FUSS); 47D: Subsided (EBBED); 48D: Rice-__ (A-RONI); 49D: Ministers (TENDS); 52D: Place (LIEU); 53D: Coffee servers (URNS); 54D: Ancient Persian (MEDE); 55D: Place for a pad (KNEE); 56D: Comic strip dog (ODIE); 57D: Adonis (HUNK); 58D: 19th-century military family (LEES); 60D: "The Gift of the Magi" gift (FOB).