THEME: "Word Chain"—Six theme entries hook up in an endless word chain—the second part of an answer hooks up with the first part of the following answer, and so on, and so on
- 18A: [*Place to keep supplies] (STOREROOM). Room service takes us to...
- 20A: [*Target at the start of a point, in tennis] (SERVICE COURT). Court case segues to...
- 30A: [*Patient record] (CASE HISTORY). The History Channel makes the transition to...
- 43A: [*Jump around on the sofa?] CHANNEL SURF). Surfboard takes us to the next entry, which starts with BOARDING rather than BOARD.
- 52A: [*Flying need] (BOARDING PASS). Say the password and move along to...
- 25A: [*The answers to the starred clues (including this one) form a continuous one—its connections are created by the end of one answer and the start of the next] (WORD CHAIN). Chain store delivers us back to the beginning of the unbroken chain.
Amy here again, swapping days with PuzzleGirl. You can look forward to her post on Saturday, kicking it themeless for a change.
I'll give this theme an A, but it's not an A+ because of the BOARD/BOARDING thing. The inclusion of the History Channel as one step in the word chain is cute, isn't it?
The late, great Dan Naddor gets bonus points for having four of the six theme answers stacked in pairs; it's not easy to pull that off with smooth crossing fill. We'll have to dock him a few points for the remarkably unsmooth 52D: [Roof singles unit: Abbr.] (BDLE.). Short for "bundle," I presume. I'm not so fond of 24D: [Result of an unsuccessful football play, perhaps] (NO GAIN). NO GAIN goes great with "no pain, ___," but you can't reuse the word "no" in clue and answer, and that clue would make NO GAIN a 6-letter partial (as discussed in the comments Wednesday, crossword constructors generally try not to include partials of more than 5 letters). Merl Reagle, who's in the L.A. Times Calendar section every other week, often includes colorful 6-letter partials, so they're not horrible as a class, just far from optimal. Maybe a clue like [End of a saying about exercise-induced pain] would work...though NO GAIN would still be a 6-letter partial entry.
I don't know why I hit the skids in the Wednesday puzzle, but this one found me back in the groove (3:32, comparable to a Wednesday NYT puzzle, as expected).
Moving on! Let's revisit some clues and answers:
- 23A: [Start of a basic piano lesson scale (CDE). This is the sort of answer I have to get by way of the crossings. Music and I, we do not go way back.
- 33A: [Ore-ida morsel] (TATER TOT). My kid loves tater tots. Meh. I prefer sweet potato fries with sea salt.
- 39A: [Old way to get a number] (DIAL "O"). That should really be a zero and not the letter O, but crosswords do that sometimes, use an O in place of 0.
- 60A: [Order-restoring tool] (GAVEL). Glad it wasn't TASER. "Order in the court!"
- 5D: [So-so] (MEDIOCRE). Imagine if this were a woefully mediocre puzzle. Then it would just be sad to see this word here. Luckily, the theme is cool.
- 6D: [Available and fresh] (IN SEASON). Not much is in season in the Midwest right now.
- 9D: ["___ the beef?"] (WHERE'S). Help me remember: Did anyone say "Where's the beef?" in a non-literal sense before the Wendy's commercials with Clara Peller in the '80s? I think that ad introduced the phrase into our lexicon.
- 11D: ["Is that ___?"] (A NO). This is Spanglish for "Is that anus?" As you may know, año is Spanish for "year," but without the tilde over the n, common crossword answer ANO means..."anus." To avoid the wrath of those who know Spanish, it's good to go with the two-word partial A NO or AN O ("I'd like to buy ___, Pat") sometimes.
- 29D: [Jazz fan?] (UTAHAN). The Utah Jazz are an NBA team in Salt Lake City. Note that the name for a person from Utah can be either UTAHAN or the weird-looking UTAHN.
Crosswordese 101: ASHE—The late, great Arthur ASHE appears at 40A: ["I don't want to be remembered for my tennis accomplishments" speaker]. He's remembered for both his tennis career—he won the U.S. Open ('68), Wimbledon ('75), and the Australian Open ('70)—and for his activism. He raised awareness about heart disease, apartheid, and HIV, the latter through his memoir, State of Grace. At Flushing Meadows, where the U.S. Open is played, the big stadium is called ASHE Stadium (I flew right over it en route to LaGuardia and the ACPT). Arthur ASHE isn't obscure crosswordese, no, but his name is certainly in crosswords a lot. So if you didn't know his name, you should.
Everything Else — 1A: Ricochet (CAROM); 6A: 1040EZ issuer (IRS); 9A: Bump off (WHACK); 14A: Single-handed (ALONE); 15A: __ de plume (NOM); 16A: Controversially, Jane Fonda visited it in 1972 (HANOI); 17A: Check, as a bill (RE-ADD); 22A: Nickelodeon explorer (DORA); 24A: Head, slangily (NOB); 27A: Asia's __ Darya river (AMU); 35A: Golden __ (AGER); 36A: Exchange (TRADE); 37A: Hide-hair connector (NOR); 41A: At 41, Kipling was the youngest one ever in his field (NOBELIST); 47A: Society-page word (NÉE); 48A: Kal __: pet food (KAN); 49A: Actress Longoria (EVA); 50A: New Mexico art colony (TAOS); 61A: São __, Brazil (PAULO); 62A: Homer's bartender (MOE); 63A: Twin Cities suburb (EDINA); 64A: When some nightly news shows begin (AT TEN); 65A: Next yr.'s alums (SRS.); 66A: Prepared (READY); 1D: Traffic causes? (CARS); 2D: Sheltered, at sea (ALEE); 3D: Pride warning (ROAR); 4D: Like Netflix flicks (ON DVD); 7D: Coll. drillers (ROTC); 8D: Kiss (SMOOCH); 10D: Stag (HART); 12D: Loving murmur (COO); 13D: Kipling's young spy (KIM); 19D: Designer Gernreich (RUDI); 21D: Demo ending? (-CRAT); 25D: End of a threat (OR ELSE); 26D: One way to learn (BY ROTE); 27D: Go after (ATTACK); 28D: Actress Mason (MARSHA); 31D: Stiff collars (ETONS); 32D: Shadow (TAIL); 34D: Paradise (EDEN); 38D: Stand-up acts (ROUTINES); 39D: Windshield-clearing aid (DEFOGGER); 42D: __ muffin (BRAN); 44D: Many an ex-lib (NEOCON); 45D: Cole Porter's "Well, Did You __?" (EVAH); 46D: St. Louis NFLers, previously (LA RAMS); 51D: Black card (SPADE); 53D: Christian name? (DIOR); 54D: Sports shoe brand (AVIA); 55D: iPhone command (SEND); 56D: More than amuse (SLAY); 57D: FDR program (WPA); 58D: Cereal grain (OAT); 59D: Dirt road feature (RUT).