Theme: Catching Some Zs — Two Zs are added to familiar phrases creating new wacky phrases clued wackily.
- 17A: Amaze a racing legend? (DAZZLE EARNHARDT).
- 26A: Simple but exciting abode? (PIZZAZZ HUT).
- 48A: Headgear delayed in shipment? (LATE FEZZES).
- 61A: Furniture design flop? (FIZZLING CABINET).
The only thing that really slowed me down was the ACT II / BALALAIKA cross (34A: When Macbeth kills Duncan / 5D: Russian instrument with a triangular body). Obviously, that last letter had to be either an I or a V but, never having heard of a BALALAIKA and not being totally up on my Shakespeare, both choices seemed equally likely. That I was the last thing I put in the grid.
- 1A: Place to get clean? (REHAB). I say no, no, no.
- 14A: Roasted, on Mexican menus (ASADA). I can't tell you how many times I've eaten pollo asada and had no idea what the asada part meant. It's always tasty though.
- 23A: "I ain't got no quarrel with the Viet Cong" speaker (ALI). This made me laugh.
- 43A: America's most wanted? (A-LIST). Personally, I prefer the D-list.
- 45A: Yvette's "our" (NOTRE). I could not make sense of this. All I could think was "nous," which means "we" in French, not "our." Damn you France! You have a different word for everything!
- 46A: "__ chic!" (TRES). Oh good, more French.
- 6D: Bird feeder filler (SUET). This was actually my first thought and then I thought maybe I was being too tricky and the answer was just plain old "seed." I checked the crosses before I committed. Whew!
- 18D: Daughter of Henry VIII: Abbr. (ELIZ.). I didn't like this at first, but then I decided that there are probably plenty of instances where this particular ELIZabeth's name actually is abbreviated. Like, for example, in a List of Acts of Parliament.
- 19D: Is down with (HAS). I assumed this clue was trying to be hip and the answer would be, I don't know … "hip."
- 27D: Blood of the gods (ICHOR). This really really really feels like something I should be familiar with. Or at least remember hearing about at some point.
- 31D: Minute piece? (WALTZ). This one tripped me up pretty good. I thought "Well, it's obviously not 'second' because of the question mark, so maybe it's the my-noot pronunciation and the answer is … 'iota'? Crap. Not long enough." Ended up getting this one totally through crosses. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
- 39D: Shed light on (ILLUMINE). ILLUMIN … hey! Where's the rest of the word? (By the way, I came across an article today about language and how it changes and how so many are resistant to (and hostile toward!) the changes. Check it out if you're interested.)
- 60D: Charon's river (STYX). Because you'd be disappointed if I didn't:
Crosswordese 101: The most popular NITA in crosswords is NITA Naldi, an actress/dancer who was a star of silent films and was associated with the Ziegfeld Follies. The cool thing about NITA Naldi is that both her names are crossworthy — you should also be prepared to see NALDI clued as "Silents star Nita." Other NITAs you might run into are New York congresswoman NITA Lowey and NITA Talbot of "Night Shift" and "The Concrete Jungle" who, for some reason, is never clued with a reference to her work on "Hogan's Heroes," for which, by the way, she received an Emmy nomination.
Other crosswordese in the puzzle that we've already covered:
- 15A: Animal in two constellations (URSA).
- 64A: Toward shelter (ALEE).
- 2D: Twin in the Torah (ESAU).
- 44D: Simply designed British firearm (STEN GUN).
- 58D: Chimp in the Mercury program (ENOS).
Everything Else — 6A: Dip (SWIM); 10A: Grade-schooler's reward (STAR); 15A: Animal in two constellations (URSA); 16A: "Hiya, José" (HOLA); 20A: Seek retribution, in a way (SUE); 21A: Prefix with meter (ALTI-); 22A: Unchallenging courses (EASY A'S); 24A: A goner, in slang (TOAST); 30A: On the road (AWAY); 35A: Blender brand (OSTER); 37A: Knock out, so to speak (AWE); 38A: Brainchild? (WHIZ KID); 40A: Iris parts (AREOLAS); 42A: Time Warner spin-off of 2009 (AOL); 50A: Draw out (EDUCE); 52A: "Maa" ma (EWE); 53A: Basic religious tenet (THEISM); 56A: Silents star Naldi (NITA); 58A: Four-song discs, briefly (EP'S); 65A: Stooge chuckle (NYUK); 66A: Off one's trolley (LOOPY); 67A: House member (LORD); 68A: Choosing word (EENY); 69A: Newark's county (ESSEX); 1D: Angular measures: Abbr. (RADS.); 3D: Skyline obscurer (HAZE); 4D: Tool whose blade is at right angles to the shaft (ADZ); 7D: Ghostly figures (WRAITHS); 8D: Knesset's land: Abbr. (ISR.); 9D: Femme fatale (MANEATER); 10D: View from Weed, California (SHASTA); 11D: Labourite's opponent (TORY); 12D: Robert of Broadway's "Guys and Dolls" (ALDA); 13D: "Phooey!" ("RATS!"); 23D: Saddam Hussein adviser Tariq (AZIZ); 25D: Defeated in an annual Nathan's contest (OUTATE); 26D: Grab for roughly (PAW AT); 28D: Scrabble 10-pointer (Z TILE); 29D: 12-sign system (ZODIAC); 32D: Not ignorant (AWARE); 33D: Sycophants' replies (YESES); 36D: Like wind energy (RENEWABLE); 41D: Slow mover (OOZE); 47D: Appropriated (SEIZED); 49D: Crumbly cheese (FETA); 51D: Broadband option: Abbr. (DSL); 53D: Maker of nonstick cookware (T-FAL); 54D: Big Island city (HILO); 55D: Weizman of 8-Down (EZER); 57D: Like 41-Down, perhaps (ICKY); 59D: Skunk Le Pew (PEPE); 62D: Emmy-winning scientist (NYE); 63D: Cyclades island (IOS).