THEME: No theme today—It's a themeless puzzle
Why, this puzzle was so easy, the Friday NYT crossword took me almost three times as long! While the multiplication factor is truthful, it's just because yesterday's NYT puzzle chewed me up and spit me out and then ate me again. This here puzzle took me a flat 4:00, so yes, Rich Norris really does calibrate these things to a consistent level nearly all the time. Mind you, before the influx of the old Tribune/TMS solvers, I think the Saturday puzzle usually took me between 5 and 7 minutes, so it's still a good bit easier than it used to be. (Sigh.)
Nothing in this grid really grabbed me. (Wouldn't it be awesome if PAIR OF TONGS was in there so I could say that was the only thing that grabbed me?) One of the two 15s is a fairly mundane noun—32A: [Text necessity, often] (TELEPHONE NUMBER). And the other has one of those "sheesh, not another Broadway musical" clues. I know there are millions who revere musicals, who know all the songs, who've seen the shows and bought the original cast albums. I am not among them. And Rex, he loves Broadway musicals just as little as I do. (PuzzleGirl, where do you land on the Broadway spectrum?) So when it came to 8D: ["The King and I" song about illicit romance] (WE KISS IN A SHADOW), I had absolutely no idea what the answer was. Wikipedia tells me "In this song, Tuptim and Lun Tha declare their love for each other, even though they fear that the King of Siam would know about it." Say what? It's not even a song that involves Anna and/or the King? Boo!
For years, I've been seeing AL HIRT's "Java" in clues for HIRT, but I'd never heard the piece. Here is a Muppet Show bit featuring the song. 16A: [Friend of Pete Fountain] clues AL HIRT because, uh, they were friends in jazz circles?
- 1A: [Act in the Senate] is a verb phrase clueing PASS A LAW. I do not like this answer at all. It feels like an arbitrary verb + noun combo.
- I like the sci-fi crossing of 17A: [TV show that has spawned 11 movies] (STAR TREK) with 2D: [Features of some alien costumes] (ANTENNAE). If you like to poke fun at sci-fi movie tropes (especially of the Trek variety), you should watch Galaxy Quest some time.
- 19A: [Mega- squared] (TERA-). Ooh, I like this approach to clueing a metric prefix. Mega- means a million and a million squared is, uh, whatever number is associated with tera-. Is it a quadrillion?
- 20A: [Fire department practice structure] (DRILL TOWER). There's one of these near my mom's, but I never knew there was a name for it.
- 39A: [Held up] (BORNE). I like a Saturday clue that can mean many different things (though not necessarily a whole puzzle filled with oblique, one- or two-word clues—that's often the experience with the Saturday Newsday crossword). First I thought "held up" = delayed. Then I thought it referred to a robbery. The "carrying things" aspect? That was third...with the help of crossings pointing the way to the right answer.
- 44A: [Sound from a wok] (SSS). Oh, nobody likes an answer like SSS, do they? There are a lot of Ss in this puzzle but even more Es.
- Never heard of 52A: [Former NBA star Dave __, now mayor of Detroit] (BING), but just as glad to avoid a reference to the Microsoft search engine. Has anyone forsaken Google for Bing? Anyone?
- Meh, I don't like this one. 57A: [Bath unit?] clues ONE METER because Bath (with that obscured yes-it's-a-capital-B Saturday clueing trick) is in England and they use meters instead of yards. But the ONE part is arbitrary. What's to keep NINEFEET or EIGHTPOUNDS out of the puzzle?
- 9D: [Joined a talk show, perhaps] (CALLED IN). I was on the radio once. WGN Radio's late-night show had me and Tyler Hinman in the studio a couple years ago to talk about crosswords and the ACPT. It was a blast. Someone needs to put me back on the radio, dammit! I am ready for the callers and their questions!
- 30D: [Curve enhancer] (CORSET)?? Really? I dispute this clue. I think it's more of a "curve torturer."
- 31D: [Like kabobs] (CUBED). I mention this one only because there is a neighborhood restaurant in Chicago that purports to be a kabob/kebab joint but also sells the Polish dumplings known as pierogies. I suspect a marriage between a Middle Easterner and a Pole, but who the hell knows what's going on at a kebab/pierogi restaurant? Skokie used to have a Filipino/Ukrainian restaurant called Makati Kiev. What's the weirdest cuisine mash-up you've encountered in a restaurant?
- 35D: [Nielsen of "Rocky IV"] (BRIGITTE). Not a great name for crosswords because if she's probably not as well-known as Bardot, but I appreciate the justification for including a photo. (It's from when she and Flavor Flav were a couple.)
- 42D: [Big name in convertible sofas] (CASTRO). A Castro convertible...is that a brand name of sofa bed, or a generic variety? I can't help feeling that it's a term most familiar to those who were alive in the 1940s or 1950s. It's not something I've encountered outside of crosswords.
Everything Else — 1A: Act in the Senate (PASS A LAW); 9A: Trees yielding beans (CACAOS); 15A: Pride's prey (ANTELOPE); 16A: Friend of Pete Fountain (AL HIRT); 17A: TV show that has spawned 11 movies (STAR TREK); 18A: C&W singer Morgan (LORRIE); 19A: Mega- squared (TERA-); 20A: Fire department practice structure (DRILL TOWER); 22A: Like Dvorák's Symphony No. 8 (ING); 23A: Palace overseas (ÉLYSÉE); 24A: "Buddenbrooks" Nobel Prize winner (MANN); 25A: Zip (ENERGY); 27A: Unlike a good excuse (SAD); 28A: Artist who rejuvenated his career with 1960s serigraphs (ERTÉ); 29A: Not fresh, in a way (SALTY); 30A: Municipal (CIVIC); 32A: Text necessity, often (TELEPHONE NUMBER); 38A: "__ Bulba": 1962 epic (TARAS); 39A: Held up (BORNE); 40A: Simple stuff (ABCS); 44A: Sound from a wok (SSS); 45A: Abdicate (RESIGN); 46A: Certain sausage, for short (BRAT); 47A: Execute, in old France (BEHEAD); 49A: "__ me ae spark o' Nature's fire": Burns (GIE); 50A: Alloys' principal components (BASE METALS); 52A: Former NBA star Dave __, now mayor of Detroit (BING); 53A: Menu choice (ENTREE); 54A: Involuntary exile (DEPORTEE); 56A: Listen to before answering (SCREEN); 57A: Bath unit? (ONE METER); 58A: Photographs (SHOOTS); 59A: Singing birds (WARBLERS); 1D: Most ashen (PASTIEST); 2D: Features of some alien costumes (ANTENNAE); 3D: 1979 N.L. co-MVP Willie (STARGELL); 4D: Word sung by Day (SERÁ); 5D: Letters on a PC key (ALT); 6D: Grand and noble (LORDLY); 7D: Copycat's activity (APERY); 8D: "The King and I" song about illicit romance (WE KISS IN A SHADOW); 9D: Joined a talk show, perhaps (CALLED IN); 10D: Bushels (A LOT); 11D: Trim in Detroit (CHROME); 12D: High-flying action (AIR WAR); 13D: Familiarize (ORIENT); 14D: "Tristram Shandy" author Laurence (STERNE); 21D: Fall collection? (LEAVES); 23D: "Aida" setting (EGYPT); 26D: MapQuest.com abbr. (RTE.); 30D: Curve enhancer (CORSET); 31D: Like kabobs (CUBED); 33D: Over-the-hill gang? (HAS-BEENS); 34D: Wks. on end (MOS.); 35D: Nielsen of "Rocky IV" (BRIGITTE); 36D: Driver who's on track? (ENGINEER); 37D: Promise breakers (RENEGERS); 40D: Big sister? (ABBESS); 41D: Bank outlet (BRANCH); 42D: Big name in convertible sofas (CASTRO); 43D: Sound buy? (STEREO); 45D: Gravelly voiced speaker (RASPER); 48D: Dementieva of women's tennis (ELENA); 51D: Intersect (MEET); 52D: Belgian composer Jacques (BREL); 55D: White House fiscal planning gp. (OMB).