THEME: "Trash Compactor"—Four two-word phrases begin with words that double as verbs that mean "compact" or "squish."
Oy, I did not care for this puzzle. The theme was OK (though one theme entry is the sort of thing you only know if you're a baseball fan, and I tell you, millions of crossword fans are not also baseball fans), but there was a lot of fill that's hostile to crossword newbies. I'll get to that in a minute. What I liked about the theme is that it's got two Qs, and there's the added elegance of all four "squish" words being used in non-verb, non-squishing contexts.
I forgot to plan ahead, and I have anniversary dinner plans (19 years!) So this post will be quick, unillustrated, and not formatted how it usually is.
- 18a. [Mule or burro] is a PACK ANIMAL.
- 26a. [Where to see racquets] is a SQUASH COURT.
- 48a. [Daring diamond device] is SQUEEZE BUNT. I had SQUEEZE PLAY, because what the heck is a SQUEEZE BUNT? It's nothing I know about. And I know "device" alliterates, but is it the best word choice here?
- 63a. [Impromptu jazz performance] is a JAM SESSION.
- The middle, where CORFU sits beside ORALE. One's a [Greek vacation isle] and the other's a [Papal vestment].
- 37a. [Put on, as cargo] clues LADED. Who ever talks about lading?
- 51a. ["Turandot" slave girl] clues LIU. Usually we get Charlie's Angels actress Lucy Liu or Long Island University. I've been doing crosswords for decades and the only opera I've ever attended is Turandot, and I still needed all the crossings for this one.
- 34d: [In other words, to Brutus] is ID EST, which we see as "i.e." often enough. This is fine Latin, quite accessible. 59a: [And the following, in a bibliog.] clues ET SEQ. Et sick!
- 66a. ["Rent-__": Reynolds/Minnelli film] clues the partial A COP. The movie was undistinguished and it has likely been forgotten by most of the people who ever knew it existed—unless they do crosswords, in which case they get reminded a couple times a year.
- 4d. AM/FM RADIO is a terrific entry, but I'm not sure why it's clued as [Feature of a new car]. I took a Ford Fusion Hybrid for a test drive a week ago, and the AM/FM radio was but a small part of the sound system. Six-disc CD player! Twelve speakers! Optional iPod/MP3 player hookup! I am just old enough to remember when the cheap-ass cars came with only an AM radio, and FM was the fancy option, before having a tape player became the fancy option.
- 9d. [Trapper] clues SNARER. Quick, tell me a sentence in which you have used the word SNARER. And "What? SNARER?!? Is that even a word?" doesn't count.
- 27d. The QUOIT, a [Ring used in a horseshoelike game], is a word I encounter in only two places: crosswords and Scrabble. Oh, do I love it in Scrabble. Not so much in crosswords.
- 40d. [Store, as fodder] clues ENSILE, which is in the running for the title of Dullest Word Found in Crosswords. I dunno—is it worse than ENISLE?
- 64d. The [Marshal at Waterloo] is named NEY. Sure, Napoleon is a much bigger deal, but NEY hogs all the crossword glory.
Enough kvetching from me. I'll bet you guys can mention some things you liked in this puzzle. Take it away!
Crosswordese 101: Ding, ding, ding! Today's winner is ORALE. It doesn't appear in crosswords too often, but I consider it and the ALB to be old-school crosswordese. I mean, if you don't live in Vatican City, do you pay much attention to papal vestments? Probably not. Other clues you may see invoke the nouns garment, attire, scarf, or cape. Once ORALE was even clued as an alb coverer. (Can't believe we haven't XW101ed ALB yet! Consider yourself lucky—it means we haven't seen ALB much here.)
Everything Else — 1A: Final Four org. (NCAA); 5A: Bedouin homes (TENTS); 10A: Bed board (SLAT); 14A: The enemy (THEM); 15A: Saved on supper, one would hope (ATE IN); 16A: Hot spot connection (WI-FI); 17A: Bondman (SERF); 20A: Relief provider (BROMO); 22A: Place with trails and trams (SKI RESORT); 23A: B&O et al. (RRS); 25A: Cousin of -trix (ESS); 32A: "Aladdin" prince (ALI); 35A: Ilsa __, Bergman's "Casablanca" role (LUND); 36A: Game ender, at times (HORN); 39A: "Ouch!" ("YOWIE!"); 41A: Backstabber (RAT); 42A: A-list (ELITE); 43A: Use, as a cot (LIE ON); 44A: Dart through the air (FLIT); 46A: Island rings (LEIS); 47A: Financial statement abbr. (YTD); 52A: Arthur Godfrey played it (UKE); 53A: Earlier today, say (A WHILE AGO); 65A: South African Peace Nobelist (TUTU); 67A: Parishioner's pledge (TITHE); 68A: Poet Pound (EZRA); 69A: Katharine of "The Graduate" (ROSS); 70A: Flippant (SASSY); 71A: Bassoon, e.g. (REED); 1D: Airline investigative org. (NTSB); 2D: "Moonstruck" Oscar winner (CHER); 3D: Sleek, for short (AERO); 5D: Beer source (TAP); 6D: Flight data, briefly (ETAS); 7D: Post-Thanksgiving soup starter (NECK); 8D: "Kon-__" (TIKI); 10D: Deli platter cheese (SWISS); 11D: One might pick you up at an airport (LIMO); 12D: Way off (AFAR); 13D: Lean (TILT); 19D: Get cozy (NESTLE); 21D: RN workplaces (ORS); 24D: Reaction to a library volume? (SHH); 26D: With cunning (SLYLY); 28D: Single (UNWED); 31D: Set free (UNTIE); 32D: "Farewell, mon ami" (ADIEU); 33D: Grant entrée to (LET IN); 38D: Completely recovered (ALL BETTER); 45D: Shih __: Tibetan dog (TZU); 49D: Pursuits (QUESTS); 50D: Struggle to make, with "out" (EKE); 51D: Struggles with sibilants (LISPS); 53D: When it's __: answer to an old riddle about a door (AJAR); 54D: City SSW of Dallas (WACO); 55D: Managed care gps. (HMOS); 56D: __ Minor (ASIA); 57D: Skedaddles (GITS); 58D: July 4th sounds (OOHS); 60D: Financial advisor Orman (SUZE); 61D: French 101 verb (ÊTRE); 62D: One of a four in a nursery (QUAD).