THEME: "Tie Me Up, Ty Me Down"—There are five familiar ways to spell the "tie" sound (plus the less common tye, meaning a ship's rope but used only in desperation on crosswords). Five phrases beginning with these words/names appear at the start of the theme entries.
- 17A: [National sport of South Korea] (TAE KWON DO). My husband's nephews and niece have all been into tae kwon do, which is perhaps the hardest-to-spell martial art. I'll bet jujitsu/jiujitsu would be more popular if it were easier to spell.
- 29A: [Longtime skating partner of Randy Gardner] (TAI BABILONIA). They were big in the late '70s.
- 38A: [Places to order tom yum goong] (THAI RESTAURANTS). The plural is undesirable but you can't center a 14-letter answer in a 15-square space.
- 47A: [Host of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"] (TY PENNINGTON). If I'm ever in the mood to have a good cry on a Sunday evening, Ty is there to help. The show is emotionally manipulative to be sure...but sometimes you just want to see a heartbreaking true story with a happy ending.
- 65A: [Overtime causes] (TIE SCORES). I feel like tied score and tie game are slightly more "in the language," but don't look to me for expertise in sports lingo.
I like the theme, but oy! The rest of this puzzle...the fill was vexing me. Not because it was hard (it wasn't) but because it had lots of uninspired fill. Now, SKEPTICAL was great (3D: [Having one's doubts]) and I like the COMRADE/JUDAISM pair, but overall I was underwhelmed by the fill. Here's why:
- French! The first (1A: PAS [__ de deux]) and last (73A: [Rimsky-Korsakov's "Le Coq __"] D'OR) Across answers are 3-letter French fill-in-the-blanks. Then there's ST. LO, the 37D: [Normandy battle site] in France, which crosses another 3-letter French FITB, JUS (35A: [Au __: menu phrase]).
- Crosswordese musicians! Either ENO (5D: [Ambient music composer Brian]) or ELO (44A: ["Xanadu" band, for short]) is enough. We don't need two of 'em. On the bright side, Yoko ONO took the day off.
- Classic crosswordese! 68A: NACRE/[Mother-of-pearl] has been in puzzles more than in daily life for decades. The ULNA is bad enough in its basic form, and its two accepted plurals (ULNAS, ULNAE) can vex, but 53D: ULNAR/[Of an arm bone] is creaky. There's not really any interesting way to clue a word like ULNAR. No gathering of classic crosswordese is complete without a 4-letter European river, is it? Here's the YSER (62D: [River of Flanders]). You've gotta have some sort of Eastern potentate too, be it an EMIR/AMIR/EMEER or a RAJA/RAJAH or a RANI/RANEE. This time, it's RAJA (28D: [Big Indian]).
- Inexplicable abbreviation! 67D is CPS, an [Early computer printer speed]. Something per second, but what? Googling...characters per second, I think. Ah, yes, the shabby old dot matrix printer days, when printing wasn't measured by the page.
- 15A. [Where the ecstatic walk], metaphorically, is ON AIR. Good example of how a lively clue can rescue dull fill.
- 23A. [Jon Stewart's "moment of __"] ZEN appears at the end of each Daily Show episode.
- 55A. [Caesar's unlucky number?] is 13 in Roman numerals: XIII. See what I mean about lively clueing?
- 22D. [Bricks unit] clues a TON, as in the phrase "it hit me like a ton of bricks."
- 61D. Holy cow! AERO is clued as [Musical prefix with smith?], referencing Aerosmith. Love this clue!
This is the Right in Rex's Wheelhouse puzzle when it comes to pictures and video, I must say. There's also his beloved Teri GARR (25D: ["Mr. Mom" actress]).
Crosswordese 101:—See XW101 links above.
Everything Else — 4A: Therapy center, for short (REHAB); 9A: Parts of fast food orders (SODAS); 14A: Four-legged bugler (ELK); 16A: Salt's "Halt!" ("AVAST!"); 19A: Having a beanpole physique (LANKY); 20A: "Baseball Tonight" station (ESPN); 21A: Year-end mall temp (SANTA); 24A: Like drive-thru orders (TO-GO); 27A: Bosom buddy (COMRADE); 33A: The Trojans of the Pac-10 (USC); 34A: Go hither and yon (ROVE); 45A: __ time: pronto (IN NO); 46A: Like some grins (SLY); 52A: 12 Tribes religion (JUDAISM); 56A: Schooner filler (ALE); 57A: One of the Yokums (PAPPY); 60A: Pre-dye shade, perhaps (GRAY); 63A: Open, in a way (UNCAP); 69A: In first place (ON TOP); 70A: Prior to, in verse (ERE); 71A: Tiny amount (TRACE); 72A: Tack room gear (REINS); 1D: "Our Gang" dog (PETE); 2D: Word of pity (ALAS); 4D: Heed the coxswain (ROW); 6D: Brinker of kiddie lit (HANS); 7D: Operatic slave girl (AIDA); 8D: Old Ford SUV (BRONCO); 9D: Sub meat (SALAMI); 10D: In vitro cells (OVA); 11D: Tony of "Who's the Boss?" (DANZA); 12D: Part of FAQ (ASKED); 13D: "Gypsy" composer Jule (STYNE); 18D: Door feature (KNOB); 26D: Instrument to which an orchestra tunes (OBOE); 29D: Word of rebuke (TUT); 30D: Big Apple tennis stadium (ASHE); 31D: Drips in an ICU (IVS); 32D: Open the door to (LET IN); 36D: Like 007's martinis (UNSTIRRED); 39D: Wee bit (IOTA); 40D: Gothic novelist Radcliffe (ANN); 41D: Operating system developed at Bell Labs (UNIX); 42D: Rice-A-__ (RONI); 43D: Roget entry: Abbr. (SYN.); 48D: "Hooray!" ("YIPPEE!"); 49D: Non-commercial TV spot (PSA); 50D: Caveat __ (EMPTOR); 51D: Computer acronym about faulty data (GIGO); 52D: Quick trip (JAUNT); 54D: Bing Crosby's primary label (DECCA); 58D: Bench material (PINE); 59D: Hairy mountain sighting (YETI); 64D: Slo-pitch path (ARC); 66D: Zak, to Ringo (SON).