THEME: No theme today—It's a themeless/freestyle puzzle
Oh, man, this one was even easier than last Saturday's puzzle. 3:14 for me lands at an easy Wednesday NYT level. The fill was cool, but the clues didn't make me work for them. I mean, if you were a fan of The West Wing, bam! 1-Across filled itself in and gave you a head start on the first 11 Down answers. Even though I kinda quit watching the show by the final two seasons, AARON SORKIN was a total gimme. His earlier show, Sports Night, was one of those under-watched but smart and engaging series.
- 12A: [1947 Oscar winner for Best Original Song] (ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH). Great answer! I had most of the letters from the Downs before I even looked at the clue.
- 14A: [1988 Michelle Pfeiffer comedy] (MARRIED TO THE MOB). Also starring Matthew Modine as the FBI agent and...who played the mobster guy? Anyone remember?
- 16A: [Record holder?] (EX-CON). Love this clue!
- 29A: [For whom the bell tolls] (THEE). As in "Ask not for..."
- 42A: [Silly rabbit's desire, in ads] (TRIX).
- 46A: [Without anything on] (NAKED AS A JAYBIRD). I got this one off the K. Wish the clue had been more elusive so I'd have to work more to have this colorful answer emerge in a grid. One question: When you are naked, are you wearing nothing but blue feathers? No? I didn't think so.
- 50A: ['80s NBC medical drama] (ST. ELSEWHERE). Never watched this show, though it should've been right up my alley.
- 9D: [Cleopatra's eyeliner] (KOHL). No relation to former German chancellor Helmut Kohl. The black eyeliner powder takes its name from an Arabic word.
- 12D: [Fighter craft game released by Sega in 1982] (ZAXXON). I sure didn't know this one, but having a Z and two Xs worked into the grid pleases me.
- 24D: [Play badly?] (CHEAT). What's your household policy on cheating at board games? I grew up in a no-cheating household but my husband's family was fine with cheating. Yes, we have a mixed marriage.
- 32D: [Loser to Bush in 1988] (DUKAKIS). As a college student in Minnesota in '88, I went to the Democratic caucus. The Dukakis crowd thought they had a catchy slogan: "We're gonna caucus for Dukakis!" I no longer remember which candidate's corner I ended up in. It might've been Jesse Jackson, since I attended one of his rallies...on a Minnesota farm. Not many, I daresay, have heard Jesse Jackson leading a crowd in this chant: "Save the farm! The family farm!"
- 41D: [Picayune] (SMALL). I love the word picayune and wish I lived in New Orleans just so I could read the Times-Picayune every day.
The only answer I looked askance at was 34D: [Bridgestone product] (CAR TIRE). I think the word car is assumed. If it's a tire on something other than a car, then it's a truck tire or a bike tire.
Now, here's a clue that pretty much demands a video: 21A: [Charmer who "walks like a woman and talks like a man," in a 1970 hit] (LOLA). Enjoy the Kinks.
Crosswordese 101: Hey, you know what? I don't see any crosswordese in this puzzle.
Everything Else — 1A: "The West Wing" creator (AARON SORKIN); 12A: 1947 Oscar winner for Best Original Song (ZIP-A-DEE-DOO-DAH); 14A: 1988 Michelle Pfeiffer comedy (MARRIED TO THE MOB); 16A: Record holder? (EXCON); 17A: Battery alternative (FUEL CELL); 18A: Neural transmitter (AXON); 19A: Cat murmurs (PURRS); 21A: Charmer who "walks like a woman and talks like a man," in a 1970 hit (LOLA); 22A: John of London (LOO); 23A: Old postal divisions (ZONES); 24A: Pachelbel work (CANON); 25A: Oct. 1975 NBC debut (SNL); 26A: Cost to get in on the deal (ANTE); 27A: Cunning (SHREWD); 28A: First queen of Carthage (DIDO); 29A: For whom the bell tolls (THEE); 30A: Catkin bearers (ALDERS); 33A: Fast-growing pet (CHIA); 34A: Half of CDX (CCV); 37A: Ad preceder? (DEUCE); 38A: Frighten (DAUNT); 39A: Last word of Shelley's "Adonais" (ARE); 40A: Amplify (MIKE); 41A: Smart-mouthed (SASSY); 42A: Silly rabbit's desire, in ads (TRIX); 43A: Campus figure (ACADEMIC); 45A: One in a class by herself? (TUTEE); 46A: Without anything on (NAKED AS A JAYBIRD); 49A: Most buses (SINGLE DECKERS); 50A: '80s NBC medical drama (ST. ELSEWHERE); 1D: Use a fan on (AIR COOL); 2D: Kitchen protector (APRON); 3D: Delay cause, maybe (RAIN); 4D: Dedicated work (ODE); 5D: Neighbor of Homer (NED); 6D: Emancipated (SET FREE); 7D: Sussex scents (ODOURS); 8D: Dull drills (ROTES); 9D: Cleopatra's eyeliner (KOHL); 10D: "My stars!" ("I DECLARE!"); 11D: "Give me a for-instance!" ("NAME ONE!"); 12D: Fighter craft game released by Sega in 1982 (ZAXXON); 13D: Empty (HOLLOW); 14D: Board (MEALS); 15D: Hardly spicy (BLAND); 19D: Koi habitats (PONDS); 20D: Golden rule word (UNTO); 23D: Site of the 1974 fight known as "The Rumble in the Jungle" (ZAIRE); 24D: Play badly? (CHEAT); 27D: Newly polished (SHINY); 28D: Will writer, at a will reading (DECEDENT); 29D: Consequently (THUS); 30D: Pro pitcher? (ADMAN); 31D: Pioneer 35mm cameras (LEICAS); 32D: Loser to Bush in 1988 (DUKAKIS); 33D: Cataract (CASCADE); 34D: Bridgestone product (CAR TIRE); 35D: Old yellers (CRIERS); 36D: In a snit (VEXED); 38D: Places for roasters and toasters? (DAISES); 41D: Picayune (SMALL); 42D: Yam, for one (TUBER); 44D: Competitive advantage (EDGE); 45D: Trike rider (TYKE); 47D: Saul or Solomon (JEW); 48D: "Oh!" to Ohm ("ACH!").