THEME: Sign puns — various sign phrases reimagined (turned into puns) for specific professions
- [Sign at a laundry?] = WRING FOR SERVICE
- [Sign at a nuclear reactor?] = GONE FISSION
- [Sign at Cape Canaveral?] = OUT TO LAUNCH
- [Sign at the Ukrainian tourism bureau?] = WATCH YOUR STEPPE
This was not great. I am trying very hard to go easier on the LAT puzzles, but I can't lie about my honest feelings, and this one just felt unpleasantly inconsistent. First, puns aren't strong. They're a little cliché, and then they don't make *any* sense as clued? Even if you've entered the realm of wackiness, the phrases should still make a kind of sense or be vaguely plausible. OUT TO LAUNCH is the only one here that qualifies. The laundry is doing the wringing, not me, so no on that one. Maaaaybe I'll give you GONE FISSION. But presumably "you" don't have a STEPPE to watch. Further, three puns are at the back of the answer, one in front - yuck. All in one place, or split them evenly (and symmetrically). Otherwise, wonky. Lastly (I think), LAUNCH is out of place in that it's the *only* one of the puns that involves a clear, discernible change in pronunciation of the base word. Not up to snuff, all around.
Did like the eastern part of this puzzle, specifially the AARON PUNIC PLATH pillars. Also liked DUNGEONS (esp. as clued, 20A: Low cells — took some work) and BLOWS IT (40D: Screws up). I know the CD holders as JEWEL CASEs, but JEWEL BOX wasn't too tough to figure out when CASE wouldn't fit (49A: CD holder). I have never heard the term REEDED, and needed every single cross to make sense of it (21A: Like a quarter's edge).
Crosswordese 101: E. COLI (56A: Culprit in some food recalls) — a very, very handy answer for a constructor, due to its classic (for a 5-letter word) vowel-cons.-vowel-cons.-vowel structure, esp. its terminal "I" (not something English words like to have). I routinely get E. COLI (a bacterium) confused with EBOLA (a virus) — note the similar vowel/consonant structures, the similar capacity for deadliness. I refuse to put either one of them into any puzzle I'm making ... or I have so far. And there was at least one time where I really, really could have used one or both or them. They're just too depressing to me — too much of a downer, too gross. I mean, they're completely valid, I'd just rather avoid. See also the ironically non-pathogenic EBOLI, almost always clued via the Carlo Levi book "Christ stopped at ___"
- 50D: Solidarity hero Walesa (LECH) — balked slightly at the vowel. LACH?
- 51D: Gp. led by a Grand Exalted Ruler (BPOE) — Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. There's a small lodge I pass every day on my way to the woods with the dogs. Never noticed the BPOE sign until after I learned the initialism from crosswords.
- 46D: Lang. that gives us "ombudsman" (SWED.) — I did not know that. I have only dealt with one ombudsman in my life. He/she may or may not have worked for public radio. He/she definitely was protecting a manifestly fraudulent correspondent because he/she found the correspondent's pieces so entertaining. It's a long story, possibly involving math and "Futurama" and Matt Groening and my best friend ... but I can't tell it. Any more than I already have. O, what the hell, here.
See you Monday,
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
Everything Else — 1A: More, to a minimalist (LESS); 5A: Coll. performance barometers (GPAS); 9A: Boatloads (SCADS); 14A: Reflection in a cave (ECHO); 15A: Its quarter reads "Birthplace of Aviation Pioneers" (OHIO); 16A: Petty objection (CAVIL); 17A: Sign at a laundry? (WRING FOR SERVICE); 20A: Low cells (DUNGEONS); 21A: Like a quarter's edge (REEDED); 22A: Uno e due (TRE); 23A: Wilbur Post's buddy (MR. ED); 24A: Sign at a nuclear reactor? (GONE FISSION); 29A: Killer __: powerful software (APP); 32A: Turkish peak (ARARAT); 33A: Dept. headed by Tom Vilsack (AGR.); 34A: First king of Israel (SAUL); 35A: Secondary (MINOR); 36A: Results of some receptions: Abbr. (TDS); 37A: __ deaf ear (TURN A); 38A: Soft footwear (MOCS); 39A: Strong squeezer (BOA); 40A: Wisconsin college or its city (BELOIT); 41A: Whatever (ANY); 42A: Sign at Cape Canaveral? (OUT TO LAUNCH); 44A: Not exactly exact words (OR SO); 45A: Perps' patterns (MOS); 46A: Batter's position (STANCE); 49A: CD holder (JEWEL BOX); 54A: Sign at the Ukrainian tourism bureau? (WATCH YOUR STEPPE); 56A: Culprit in some food recalls (ECOLI); 57A: Pro's opposite (ANTI); 58A: Either "Raising Arizona" director (COEN); 59A: Like the Taj Mahal (DOMED); 60A: Exploit (FEAT); 61A: Eldest daughter of Cronus (HERA); 1D: Bawdy (LEWD); 2D: Neutral shade (ECRU); 3D: Commonly bruised bone (SHIN); 4D: Track, perhaps (SONG); 5D: Words of encouragement (GO FOR IT); 6D: Ringers (PHONES); 7D: Pretensions (AIRS); 8D: Message in a storm (SOS); 9D: Shield from view (SCREEN); 10D: Submitted (CAVED); 11D: All fired up (AVID); 12D: Rolling "bones" (DICE); 13D: Arctic carrier (SLED); 18D: Be very successful (GET FAR); 19D: Fielder's flub (ERROR); 23D: "Top Gun" enemy planes (MIGS); 24D: Third in a sequence (GAMMA); 25D: Sirius' master, in some depictions (ORION); 26D: Sluggo's pal (NANCY); 27D: Fertility deity (EROS); 28D: Time's 1977 Man of the Year (SADAT); 29D: Baseball record breaker of 4/8/1974 (AARON); 30D: Like the wars between Carthage and Rome (PUNIC); 31D: Subject of the 2003 film "Sylvia" (PLATH); 34D: Enterprise helmsman (SULU); 36D: Miss Gulch's bÍte noire (TOTO); 37D: Afternoon service (TEA SET); 39D: "The Buddy Holly Story" star (BUSEY); 40D: Screws up (BLOWS IT); 42D: Prom flower (ORCHID); 43D: Puzo novel (OMERTA); 44D: Frère de la père (ONCLE); 46D: Lang. that gives us "ombudsman" (SWED.); 47D: Tex-Mex nosh (TACO); 48D: Molecule constituent (ATOM); 49D: Flag Day month (JUNE); 50D: Solidarity hero Walesa (LECH); 51D: Gp. led by a Grand Exalted Ruler (BPOE); 52D: "0" button letters (OPER); 53D: Princess from Amphipolis (XENA); 55D: Lummox (OAF).