THEME: J-MEN — phrases that end with plurals of men's names that start with "J"
Didn't grasp the theme as I was solving — though I sensed it had something to do with the second word starting with the letter "J." When I finished (in somewhat longer time than I'm accustomed to on a Monday), I noticed the remarkable tightness of the theme. I couldn't find another man's name that could yield a suitable answer. You've got your symmetry ... most if not all of the names are used in non-man's-name contexts. And, mercifully, the general quality of the fill is solid, virtually unimpeachable (though I'm always going to impeach RAREE — man, I hate that word). All in all, a fantastic LAT Monday puzzle.
- 18A: Ground beef concoctions on buns (SLOPPY JOES)
- 23A: Dried meat sticks (SLIM JIMS) — so we've got an "S.J. meat" theme going at this point...
- 33A: Winter underwear (LONG JOHNS)
- 50A: Toronto ball team (BLUE JAYS)
- 56A: Fruit-and-cinnamon-flavored cereal (APPLE JACKS)
I was slowed down thrice today. First, at GLACIER (3D: Ice Age remnant) — needed the first three letters before it would tip. I think I was thinking of something that survived in the ice ... like a Mastodon skeleton? ... and not a very ordinary (if disappearing) ice formation. Then there was SEAL PUP (38D: Sea lion newborn). Many problems here. First, I thought seals and sea lions were different species. Second, I had SEAL- and thought "Is the answer SEALION ... but the clue is SEALION?" So I get SEAL PUP. Which brings me back to my original question about species. Turns out earless seals are "true seals" and eared seals are "sea lions." So sea lions are, technically, on some level, also seals. Making this answer, if not elegant, at least defensible. Lastly, there was AT STAKE (44D: On the line), which really threw me, as I was sure the "line" in question belonged to a telephone. That "K" in AT STAKE (and TENK!?) was the last thing to go in the grid.
Crosswordese 101: SERAPES (39D: Pancho's ponchos) — in its six-letter, unpluralized incarnation, this answer is superduper common. I think the database at cruciverb has a bug, because if you search "SERAPE" you see it's been used 43 times, but if you search the "Top" 6-letter words, it doesn't show up with the other 43s (ASSENT, SEDATE, EASTER, STRESS, STOOGE, AURORA, SPHERE). ASSENT and STOOGE are equally common!?!? Weird. Anyway, that's the company SERAPE keeps, and it's clearly the most exotic of the bunch. No one's going to have to commit EASTER, or any of those other words, to memory. With SERAPE, you might have to do an add. A +1. Manual override of your vocabulary database. Unless you've been doing crosswords forever and/or are familiar with Mexican attire.
See you Friday, when, technically, I'll be in Idaho. But, through the magic of pre-blogging, I'll still be "here."
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Everything Else — 1A: The U.S. minimum is $7.25 per hour (WAGE); 5A: In the phone directory (LISTED); 11A: It can follow poli or precede fi (SCI); 14A: One out of two (HALF); 15A: Break out of jail (ESCAPE); 16A: Refusals (NOS); 17A: Amo, amas, __ (AMAT); 20A: Nervous twitch (TIC); 21A: Kitchen cabinet stack (PLATES); 22A: Light beige (ECRU); 25A: War's opposite (PEACE); 26A: Apprehension (UNEASE); 27A: Food fish that's often red (SNAPPER); 29A: Quechua-speaking country (PERU); 30A: Two-time loser to Ike (ADLAI); 32A: Radical '60s org. (SDS); 37A: Doofus (ASS); 40A: "Do __ See God?": Jon Agee palindrome book (GEESE); 41A: Meat-inspecting org. (USDA); 45A: Visibly embarrassed (BEET RED); 47A: Lynx family member (BOBCAT); 49A: Kind of carnival show (RAREE); 52A: Airline to Ben-Gurion (EL AL); 53A: On the train (ABOARD); 55A: Rockies hrs. (MST); 58A: Samoa's capital (APIA); 59A: Go after in court (SUE); 60A: Surgeon's tool (LANCET); 61A: Long race, for short (TEN K); 62A: Military gps. (TPS); 63A: Military instructions (ORDERS); 64A: Coastal raptor (ERNE); 1D: Bugs's question to "Doc" (WHAT'S UP); 2D: Pooh's creator (A.A. MILNE); 4D: Young newt (EFT); 5D: Nielsen of "Naked Gun" films (LESLIE); 6D: Muslim religion (ISLAM); 7D: Highlanders, e.g. (SCOTS); 8D: Record, à la Nixon (TAPE); 9D: Omar of "The Mod Squad" movie (EPPS); 10D: "L.A. Law" co-star Susan (DEY); 11D: Nestlé brand named for its covering of tiny white confection balls (SNO-CAPS); 12D: Strong-armed (COERCED); 13D: Publishers, e.g. (ISSUERS); 19D: Cherokee on the road (JEEP); 21D: Jammies (PJS); 24D: Handle roughly (MAUL); 25D: "Royal" annoyance (PAIN); 27D: Gin flavoring (SLOE); 28D: Slangy "No way" ("NAH"); 30D: Elderly (AGED); 31D: School dance VIPs (DJS); 34D: Grimm beast (OGRE); 35D: Formerly, in wedding news (NÉE); 36D: Math or soc. studies (SUBJ.); 37D: Side by side (ABREAST); 42D: Run playfully (SCAMPER); 43D: Motel with a sunrise in its logo (DAYS INN); 46D: Relate (TELL); 47D: Pops, as a bubble (BURSTS); 48D: Multivolume ref. (OED); 50D: Italian bowling game (BOCCE); 51D: Southern California hoopster (LAKER); 53D: Open just a bit (AJAR); 54D: 57-Down, for one (BAND); 57D: "Xanadu" rock gp. (ELO); 58D: Chowed down (ATE).