THEME: RIFLES (48D: Weapons in which you can find the starts of 17-, 31-, 46- and 62-Across) — theme answers all start with RIFLE parts
Tied for the fastest puzzle I've done this year, though I had to disqualify it because I later noticed a typo (one of the perils of solving a. quickly, and b. on-screen). 78 words in this one — the maximum for a daily 15x15 puzzle — which results in a surfeit (!) of short fill (not usually good), but this grid makes up for it with a lot of 6- and 7-letter stuff, all of it solid. I like the theme on this one — very strong and interesting, as "first words"- (or "last words"-) type themes go. A little weirdness. While HAMMER is certainly a part of a RIFLE, so is LOCK (the LOCK is the firing mechanism on a gun, most familiar to non-gun-users from the phrase LOCK, stock and BARREL — which makes me wonder here STOCK is ...). So the parts seem arbitrary and the extra, unaccounted-for part (LOCK) is a bit distracting, but it's still an original concept. LOCK, STOCK, and BARREL has undoubtedly been done before (as a theme), now that I think about it. Let me check. Oh look, I'm right. In fact, such a puzzle was in the LAT just last year, and *I* blogged it. Huh. Curious. Well, there's one reason not to use STOCK. Shoulda ditched LOCK. Other possibilities. HAMMER TOSS, HAMMER DOWN (trucker-speak!), or, my personal favorite: HAMMER TIME.
- 17A: Hotel room cleaner (CHAMBER MAID)
- 31A: Arm-twisting move (HAMMER LOCK)
- 46A: Rodeo event with obstacles (BARREL RACE)
- 62A: Without prior inspection (SIGHT UNSEEN)
Crosswordese 101: GAR (19A: Long-snouted fish) — how have we not covered this guy yet? He is the undisputed king of ichthyological crossword answers. OK, EEL is king, but that dude is overexposed. GAR is old-skool and kind of elegant. EEL doesn't know when to give it a rest, and hence is wicked annoying. GAR is J.D. Salinger to EEL's Stephenie Meyer. And OPAH ... well, god knows what OPAH is.
I cringed upon starting this puzzle when my first two answers were USO and UPCS ("Let me guess ... the theme is All Abbrevs.!"). I have sympathy for the constructor who needs a little bad fill to get by, and at least has the decency to shove it in a corner. But here, that corner could have been rewritten a million ways with *no* abbreviations. I'd have been happy with just one. Come on. Please take care of your little corners! They deserve the love and attention to detail. One of the things I liked about the puzzle was the way the mid-range fill (all pretty good) compensated for the onslaught of short stuff. Two 7s up top, another two below, one in NE and SW corners, respectively, and another two PLUS two 8s sandwiched in the middle there. Good stuff. That, and the openish NE and SW corners give the grid some level of interest beyond the theme.
OK, that's all.
See you Friday,
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Everything Else — 1A: Support gp. for the troops (USO); 4A: Words of deliberation (LET'S SEE); 11A: Audience for 1-Across (GIS); 14A: Mom's business partner (POP); 15A: Concisely put (IN A WORD); 16A: Hairy Addams Family cousin (ITT); 17A: Hotel room cleaner (CHAMBERMAID); 19A: Long-snouted fish (GAR); 20A: "Green" energy type (SOLAR); 21A: Opening for a peeping Tom (KEYHOLE); 23A: Manage, barely (GET BY); 27A: Pelvic bones (ILIA); 28A: Painter of melting watches (DALI); 31A: Arm-twisting wrestling hold (HAMMERLOCK); 35A: 56-Down, biologically (OVA); 36A: Jumped the tracks (DERAILED); 37A: Electric car's lack (GAS TANK); 39A: Threatened (MENACED); 43A: Like glue (ADHESIVE); 45A: Tire layer (PLY); 46A: Rodeo event with obstacles (BARREL RACE); 49A: Really bugs (IRKS); 50A: "__ ain't broke ..." (IF IT); 51A: "Hardball" airer (MSNBC); 53A: Gridiron five-yard penalty (OFFSIDE); 57A: "You __ to know!" (OUGHT); 61A: Nothing at all (NIL); 62A: Without prior inspection (SIGHT UNSEEN); 66A: Ill temper (IRE); 67A: Vigilant against attack (ON GUARD); 68A: Greenwich Village sch. (NYU); 69A: Divs. on some rulers (CMS); 70A: Attaches securely (FASTENS); 71A: Guinness suffix (-EST); 1D: Lines on mdse. (UPCS); 2D: Arty Big Apple area (SOHO); 3D: October birthstone (OPAL); 4D: Cuba __: rum drink (LIBRE); 5D: Opposite of WSW (ENE); 6D: Road sealer (TAR); 7D: Certain bachelor, in ads (SWM); 8D: Relax in the tub (SOAK); 9D: New York canal (ERIE); 10D: Whirling water (EDDY); 11D: Paid male escort (GIGOLO); 12D: Slanted type (ITALIC); 13D: 10 consecutive wins, say (STREAK); 18D: Nativity trio (MAGI); 22D: Broom-__: comics witch (HILDA); 24D: Stanley Cup org. (THE NHL); 25D: Carnival pitchman (BARKER); 26D: Singer Sumac (YMA); 28D: Boxer or pug (DOG); 29D: Gardner of "On the Beach" (AVA); 30D: "Deck the Halls" syllables (LAS); 32D: Tries to act like (MIMICS); 33D: Late news hour (ELEVEN); 34D: Descartes or Russo (RENE); 36D: Florida's Miami-__ County (DADE); 38D: Queen of Hearts' pastries (TARTS); 40D: EMT's skill (CPR); 41D: Yellowstone grazer (ELK); 42D: Prefix with functional (DYS-); 44D: Walton of Walmart (SAM); 46D: Like the Six Million Dollar Man (BIONIC); 47D: Declare true (AFFIRM); 48D: Weapons in which you can find the starts of 17-, 31-, 46- and 62-Across (RIFLES); 49D: Closely monitored hosp. areas (ICUS); 52D: Slugger Barry (BONDS); 54D: "Time __ the essence" (IS OF); 55D: Actress Merrill (DINA); 56D: Incubator items (EGGS); 58D: Hereditary unit (GENE); 59D: Casual greetings (HEYS); 60D: Letter-shaped fastener (T-NUT); 63D: "Survivor" shelter (HUT); 64D: __ kwon do (TAE); 65D: Java vessel (URN).