THEME: FALL (57D: Drop down, and apt word that can follow the last words of 4-, 8-, 15- and 28-Down) — four (vertical!) theme answers "FALL" down the grid, while a bonus theme answer (EDEN) lurks (symmetrically!) in the far NE
Very enjoyable puzzle. Soooo weird that the LAT and NYT both ran puzzles with vertical theme answers (a rarity) on the same day. And a Monday at that. That's the last day you suspect to see shenanigans. So I'm having a great solving day so far, as both daily puzzles were unexpected and entertaining. This one's more conservative, but also cleaner in terms of fill. I appreciate the virtues of both. Hell, I'm just glad to know that there's apparently a market for puzzles with vertical theme answers, since I've got one burning a hole in my pocket right now. That's probably not the right metaphor, but whatever. I'm going to submit the puzzle this week. We'll see where (if anywhere) it ends up. But back to this one — the verticality of the theme answers gives it the oomph it needs to go from "meh" (yet another "Word that can follow..." theme) to good. Solid. In fact, as good an early-week puzzle as I've seen in the LAT.
- 4D: "Cutting to the chase..." ("LONG STORY SHORT...") — great answer (first and only prior use that I can find is by one Mr. Doug Peterson)
- 28D: Like here-today-gone-tomorrow businesses (FLY-BY-NIGHT)
- 8D: "The Price Is Right" signature phrase ("COME ON DOWN!") — this just makes me sad for Drew Carey.
- 15D: Going nowhere (DEAD IN THE WATER) — another lively colloquial expression.
For a puzzle that fell in only a little over 3 minutes, this one held a lot of minor obstacles for me. I instinctively went for ENMESH over ENGAGE (48D: Interlock, as gear), and then, when I got that fixed, dropped in GABON instead of GHANA (68A: Ivory Coast neighbor) (GABON is close, but not adjacent, to Ivory Coast). Also initially went with BRAY over BAWL (45A: Wail) and SESTET over STANZA (9D: Poem part).
Crosswordese 101: AGAVE (54D: Tequila source) — 60% vowels, alternating vowel-consonant structure ... all the ingredients of a five-letter repeater. AGAVE is the new(ish) "natural" sweetener of "healthy" products (I use "scare quotes" because, for the most part, health-wise, sugar is sugar is sugar). Yesterday in the grocery store, this poor guy who'd been sent to the store with a list from the cook (presumably his wife) had no idea how to find many of the listed products. We found him in the Asian food section, trying to find soba noodles. Once my wife helped him, he then asked, plaintively, if we had any idea where he could find AGAVE syrup. Wife pointed him in direction of sugar alternatives in the "health" section, and wished him good luck.
- 5A: Plastic clog footwear brand (CROCS) — I think they're based in Colorado. CROCS has a huge display / store in at least one of the concourses at the Denver Airport.
- 30D: In the buff (BARE) / 33D: Buttocks, in slang (TUSH) — these go nicely with THWACK, I think. You know who's in danger of having a BARE TUSH? The guy with his Pants on the Ground!
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Everything Else — 1A: Word-of-mouth (ORAL); 5A: Plastic clog footwear brand (CROCS); 10A: Before: Pref. (PRE-); 13A: Quash, as a bill (VETO); 14A: Fathered (BEGOT); 15A: Monopoly card with a mortgage value (DEED); 16A: Mary Kay rival (AVON); 17A: Alabama march city (SELMA); 18A: Sea eagle (ERNE); 19A: Breathing organs (LUNGS); 21A: Finely sharpened (KEEN); 22A: Long, long time (AEON); 23A: Playground piece that has its ups and downs (SEE-SAW); 25A: Caught 40 winks (DOZED); 27A: Relieved end-of-the-week cry (TGIF); 29A: Country west of Botswana (NAMIBIA); 33A: Jackson 5 brother (TITO); 36A: Musher's transport (SLED); 38A: Traffic tangle (SNARL); 39A: Cold War empire: Abbr. (USSR); 40A: Compulsive fire starters, informally (PYROS); 42A: Lobster catcher (TRAP); 43A: Has (an audience) rolling in the aisles (SLAYS); 45A: Wail (BAWL); 46A: Coop group (HENS); 47A: Provider of kisses? (HERSHEY); 49A: Cyrano had a big one (NOSE); 51A: Reddish-orange dye (HENNA); 53A: Hit with a paddle (THWACK); 57A: Stereotypical dog name (FIDO); 60A: __ the lily: overembellish (GILD); 62A: International Court of Justice site, with "The" (HAGUE); 63A: Allege as fact (AVER); 64A: Radiant (AGLOW); 66A: Word after duct or ticker (TAPE); 67A: Time for fasting (LENT); 68A: Ivory Coast neighbor (GHANA); 69A: Bad to the bone (EVIL); 70A: D-Day craft (LST); 71A: Early anesthetic (ETHER); 72A: Cincinnati team (REDS); 1D: Egg shapes (OVALS); 2D: Variety show (REVUE); 3D: Make amends (for) (ATONE); 4D: "Cutting to the chase ..." (LONG STORY SHORT); 5D: "The Amazing Race" network (CBS); 6D: Smell really bad (REEK); 7D: Leered at (OGLED); 8D: "The Price Is Right" signature phrase (COME ON DOWN); 9D: Poem part (STANZA); 10D: Pierre's pop (PÈRE); 11D: "The Biggest Little City in the World" (RENO); 12D: Notable 57-Down site (EDEN); 15D: Going nowhere (DEAD IN THE WATER); 20D: Drop in the middle (SAG); 24D: Thin smoke trail (WISP); 26D: There are three in "mommy" (EMS); 28D: Like here-today-gone-tomorrow businesses (FLY-BY-NIGHT); 30D: In the buff (BARE); 31D: Shah's land, once (IRAN); 32D: Swiss peaks (ALPS); 33D: Buttocks, in slang (TUSH); 34D: Bermuda, e.g. (ISLE); 35D: Old Russian despot (TSAR); 37D: Pitching stat (ERA); 41D: 11-Down machine (SLOT); 44D: Ship, to its captain (SHE); 48D: Interlock, as gears (ENGAGE); 50D: "Quiet!" ("SHH!"); 52D: Koran deity (ALLAH); 54D: Tequila source (AGAVE); 55D: Deity with a bow and arrow (CUPID); 56D: Topples (over) (KEELS); 57D: Drop down, and apt word that can follow the last words of 4-, 8-, 15- and 28-Down (FALL); 58D: Singer Burl (IVES); 59D: Fender ding (DENT); 61D: Finished (DONE); 65D: Original Cabinet department renamed Defense in 1949 (WAR).