Author: Randall J. Hartman
Theme: Insert the word "AX" into common phrases to get new phrases.
- Strip mine => "STRIP, MAXINE!" (16a: Command to the promiscuous widow in "The Night of the Iguana" to take her clothes off?).
- Favorite son => FAVORITE SAXON (22a: Pet German of yore?).
- Blood relation => BLOOD RELAXATION (37a: Quiet time for a Los Angeles gang member?).
- Chicken wing => CHICKEN WAXING (48a: Process of taking hair off a fraidy-cat?).
- Ted Knight => TAXED KNIGHT (59a: Gave Sir Lancelot everything he could handle?).
I like this theme; it's clever and amusing. It's pretty easy to guess what's going on just from the title, but with entries like CHICKEN WAXING, who cares! Very nice indeed.
- 13a: "Let's Make a Deal" choice (DOOR). This show was way more than the sum of its parts. It was legend. I'll take the box where Carol Merrill is standing...
- 14a: The point (0,0) (ORIGIN). You know I like the math clues.
- 10d: "Rats!" (DOGGONE IT). Very nice.
- 30d: Some mounds in the ground (MOLE HILLS). How sweet would have been to have MOUNTAINS in the same puzzle...
- 38d: "Champagne Supernova" band (OASIS). Good song! Here's a link.
- 47d: Lustful desire (LIBIDO). Great word.
- 1a: Where the N.Y. Rangers play their home games (MSG). It's a flavor enhancer and a sports arena. Here, of course, it refers to Madison Square Garden.
- 4a: Slander or libel (DEFAME).
- 10a: Pop (DAD).
- 15a: ___ Miss (OLE). I know this from NCAA basketball tournament pools.
- 18a: Rickey ingredient (GIN). I've never had a Lime Rickey, but I do drink the occasional summer gin and tonic.
- 19a: Soda bottle size (LITER).
- 20a: Class (ILK). Ilk's an okay word.
- 21a: Prankster's missiles (EGGS). I really wanted PEAS here. Eggs are hardcore.
- 26a: Blissful place (EDEN). Just watch out for serpents.
- 28a: Jacques or Pierre (NOM). French for "name".
- 34a: Hall of Fame third baseman George (BRETT).
- 41a: Grover's second veep (ADLAI). If his name didn't have three vowels, no one would remember who he was.
- 42a: Chowderhead (DOLT). Chowderhead's a great word; it would be nicer if it were fill instead of clue.
- 43a: "Boohbah" watcher (TOT). Not familiar with the show, as it's been a while since I've had young kids. But it wasn't hard to figure out.
- 44a: Self starter? (ESS). Cryptic clue! Don't fall for these.
- 45a: Sea on the border of Kazakhstan (ARAL). This one shows up a lot, often as "Asian sea" or "Shrinking sea".
- 54a: Maui gifts (LEIS). Wahines on Tuesday, Maui on Wednesday. I might have swapped those.
- 55a: Tic-tac-toe loser (OXO). There are six possible answers to this: OOX, OXO, XOO, XXO, XOX, and OXX.
- 56a: New York theater awards (OBIES).
- 58a: Last word in the Pledge of Allegiance (ALL). That's a really easy clue for a Wednesday.
- 62a: Under the weather (ILL).
- 63a: "___ Ambition" (2007 Jessica Simpson movie) (BLONDE).
- 64a: "Jurassic Park" costar of Goldblum (DERN).
- 65a: Numero uno número primo (DOS). First prime number, in Spanish. I don't know enough about the language to know why the first "Numero" doesn't have an accent like the second one. Maybe it's a typo.
- 66a: Shop tool (SANDER).
- 67a: Jazz trombonist Kid ___ (ORY). I know this from puzzles.
- 1d: Recurring theme (MOTIF). Motif's a decent word.
- 2d: In a way, in a way (SORTA). Cute. Sorta.
- 3d: Tear up, maybe (GRIEVE).
- 4d: Bro of Joltin' Joe (DOM). Referring to the DiMaggio brothers.
- 5d: Part of BCE (ERA). Before the Common Era.
- 6d: Handyman (FIX-IT). That's "Mr. Fix-it" to you.
- 7d: Twinkle-toed (AGILE). Another one where the clue is more sparkling than the fill.
- 8d: Furry animals (MINKS). Most mammals are furry. Is this a reference to the fact that people make fur coats out of them? Either way, it reminds me of Season 5 American Idol, when Simon Cowell called Kelly Pickler "a naughty little minx". Man, was she cute, but you can't fake that kind of stupid.
- 9d: Chemical suffix (ENE). I'm not sure if this is better or worse than an "a-to-b direction" clue. Thoughts?
- 11d: Put in a row (ALIGN).
- 12d: Cub Scout groups (DENS).
- 13d: Hi-tech connection (DSL).
- 17d: Goad (PROD).
- 21d: Bring to bear (EXERT).
- 23d: Bring up (REAR). I didn't figure it was going to be PUKE, but you never know. This isn't the Times, you know.
- 24d: Between the sheets (IN BED). I've heard both of these as the phrase you're supposed to add after reading a fortune cookie fortune. "Big things will be coming your way..."
- 25d: Jessica of "Fantastic Four" (ALBA).
- 28d: Org. of Hawks and Raptors (NBA).
- 29d: Word with school or guard (OLD).
- 32d: "Sweet Talkin' Woman" band (ELO). This was huge when I was growing up. In case you can't place it, here it is.
- 33d: Four-time Emmy winner for Outstanding Drama Series (L.A. LAW). Good show.
- 36d: Big bang letters (TNT).
- 39d: Othello piece (DISC).
- 46d: Cell impulse transmitter (AXON).
- 48d: Jacqueline du Pré's instrument (CELLO). Also Yo-yo Ma's.
- 49d: Eucalyptus the Beanie Baby, e.g. (KOALA). What else could it be?
- 50d: ___ Valdez (EXXON). Don't drink and drive! Especially not oil tankers.
- 51d: Exceedingly (NO END).
- 52d: Bamako's river (NIGER). Easy enough with a couple of crossings.
- 53d: Pritzker-winning architect Frank (GEHRY).
- 54d: Chewed out, with "into" (LAID).
- 57d: B&O stop (STN). I never know whether this is going to be STN or STA. I'm pretty sure I've seen it both ways.
- 59d: "Dinner and a Movie" channel (TBS).
- 60d: Only president other than LBJ born in Texas (DDE). Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bush the Elder was born in Massachusetts. Bush the "Is it over yet?" was born in Connecticut.
- 61d: Plop or plunk lead-in (KER). Yeah, okay.
Suns of Bitches:
- 27a: "Dancing With the Stars" judge Goodman (LEN). Names are always my downfall. Luckily there were no hard crossings here.
- 31a: Explorer Tasman (ABEL). Ditto.
- 40d: Pibb ___ (soda brand) (XTRA). Didn't know this one.
First, as a constructor, there's something just a little inelegant about having a black square in the top left (and bottom right) corner. It's usually a huge red flag that screams "I'm having trouble filling this section". Sometimes it's critical to an otherwise open crossword (which, at 19.5% black squares, this one is not); sometimes it is necessary to support a "theme clue" as the last entry in the puzzle (again, not the case here); and sometimes it's worth it for the snazzy fill in those shortened entries... let's see... MSG, DSL, STN, and ORY... nope, not that either. So, I'm guessing this puzzle, with its five theme entries, was just a bear to fill.
As a solver, I thought the theme was great, but the fill was only so-so. A couple of nice entries, but overall there was more sparkle in the clues than in the fill. I found a good portion of the puzzle to be just a bit on the dull side for me.
Thanks for listening.
- Pete M.