Theme: Abbott and Costello, or "confusion at first" - the first words of each of the theme answers are anagrams of each other.
[Late breaking - check out the constructor's notes at the the foot that I received after I wrote up the puzzle - you're perfectly entitled to skip my stuff and cut to the chase!]
17A Hit a ball caught by Ted Williams, say : FLIED TO LEFT. Right off the bat a baseball reference - "The Kid" played all 22 years of his professional career as left fielder for the Boston Red Sox. On second thoughts maybe I should say "Left off the bat ..."
29A Outdoor sport with sticks : FIELD HOCKEY. I played this at school in the UK. It's tough on the shins, let me tell you. It's technically a foul to wallop your opponent's tibia, but schoolboys aren't big on technicalities.
45A Tried to collect unemployment benefits, say: FILED A CLAIM. I have a friend who works in the unemployment office who tells me her job is to make it as difficult as possible to do this.
60A Longtime Cuban leader : FIDEL CASTRO. Possibly as famous for loving baseball and cigars as being "El Jef Maximo".
Happy Wednesday everyone - Steve here with a collaboration between Jerome Gunderson and our own dear Marti. I've not "met" Jerome before, and as there seems no possibility of making "Rich Norris" out of any part of his name, I'd say congratulations are in order on his debut! (Notes from C.C.: Jerome was absent from the blog when Steve arrived. Read my interview with Jerome here. Like Marti, he's very witty and has a big heart. He supported me and this blog from the very beginning when we shifted to LA Times Crossword.)
The theme was a big help to me today - I'm an anagram fan and when I'd got "FIELD" and FIDEL" I saw what was going on and filled in a lot of the blank left-hand-side of the grid which was giving me trouble. The 3-2-3-2 theme word count was pretty neat too.
Lots more to discuss, so let's get started:
1 President of Syria : ASSAD. Two world leaders in one day.
6 Foreigner, to a Polynesian : HAOLE. I've finally stopped trying to spell this "howly". It took me a while.
11 Many SSI recipients: SRS. It took me some time to understand this, but now I see that many seniors receive Social Security Income .
14 Rich kid in “Nancy” comics : ROLLO. I remembered this from a C.C. puzzle in January and Argyle's helpful cast of Nancy characters
15 K.T. of country : OSLIN. Crosses for me. No idea.
16 Bounce : HOP
19 Future flounders : ROE
20 Motorola smartphone : DROID. The "Droid" name is used under license from "Star Wars" creator George Lucas because of these two chaps:
21 On the line: AT STAKE.
23 Bar order in a very small glass : SHOT. The shot glasses in my bar are on the large side (I'm not complaining, Tinbeni wouldn't either!).
25 Potter’s oven : KILN
27 Seat of Garfield County, Oklahoma : ENID.
28 “Mazel __!” : TOV
32 Rock or horse follower: OPERA. The Who's "Tommy" was the original rock opera with Pinball Wizard the iconic song. There are no standout horse versions almost by definition - if you have a formulaic western series - a "horse opera" - the very fact it has that label attached means it's not standing out from all the others. Fun phrase!
34 Firewood wood : BEECH
35 Bug on the phone : WIRETAP
38 Solo performance : RECITAL
42 Reference ending : -PEDIA Wikipedia being the friend of bloggers everywhere.
44 Grammar school sequence: AEIOU
50 UPS delivery : PKG
51 Polluted Asian sea : ARAL
52 “The Galloping Gourmet” : KERR. My mother was in love with Graham Kerr - the problem was she didn't pay any attention to his recipes or instruction. God rest her soul, but my siblings agree that her cooking constituted cruel and unusual punishment. We all learned to cook in self-defense - perhaps that was her cunning plan to get out of kitchen duty.
53 “... baked in __” : A PIE. Food! Four and Twenty blackbirds this gourmet filling. I know of an Australian company, "Four 'N Twenty, which produces meat pies, and a two-restaurant chain here in LA called "FourN20", originally selling dessert pies.
54 Garage event : TAG SALE
57 Bank holding : MONEY.
59 Short life story? : BIO.
64 Barcelona bear : OSO. Need to be on your Spanish toes (dedos de los pies Espanõl) today with three answers in Spanish. This is numero uno.
65 Get a chuckle out of : AMUSE. I get many chuckles out of these blogs. Cheers!
66 Showed dissatisfaction, fan-style : BOOED
67 Itch : YEN
68 Move to new soil : RE-POT
69 Run through 57-Across : SPEND. That's me.
1 Weimaraner warning : ARF. Any dog noise is a warning as far as I'm concerned. Grrs, Barks, Arfs and I'm wary.
2 San Juan sun : SOL. Numero dos.
3 Made room on a crowded bench : SLID OVER
4 Heads-up : ALERT
5 Ignoramus : DODO. I feel sorry that the poor dodo is now synonymous with a dolt - they weren't ignorant in the unintelligent sense of the word, they were trusting and friendly - and ignorant of the fact that the humans they were cozying up to had nefarious intentions.
6 Sweatshirt with a head cover : HOODIE
7 Syst. with hand signals : ASL. American Sign Language was developed by Thomas Hopkins Galluadet in 1817 and was taken directly from French Sign Language. The British, as they are prone to do, refused to work with Gallaudet when he traveled to the UK to learn the English method, whereas the French were delighted to share (also the Brits refused to have anything to do with the French as per normal). Ergo, the two English-speaking powers developed completely different systems. SNAFU.
8 Poisonous flowering shrub : OLEANDER. Pretty, though. I'm not sure if it's native to Southern California but there's certainly a lot of it about.
9 Hitchhiker’s hope : LIFT
10 Tolkien’s Treebeard et al. : ENTS
11 Got smaller : SHRANK
12 Dugout newcomer : ROOKIE. Jerome Gunderson today?
13 Quick : SPEEDY
18 Polynesian carving : TIKI. To sell to the HAOLES.
22 Computer wonk : TECHIE. Guilty as charged.
23 Stash : STOW
24 Kachina doll maker : HOPI. These are awesome! The Hopi spirit-creatures from Arizona.
26 Me. retailer, initially : LLB. I missed the period in the clue and was stumped as to who would be selling "me". Then oh! Then oh! L.L.Bean!
29 Destined : FATED
30 Bray beginning : HEE. Needs HAW to finish.
31 Philosopher William of __, known for his “razor” : OCCAM. Was he a "one hit wonder" in philosophy circles? I don't recall hearing about his toothbrush or his comb.
33 Drives away : REPELS
36 Cavity filler’s org. : ADA. That reminds me, I need to make an appointment with my dentist.
37 Paid for everyone, as the tab : PICKED UP. A very popular person, the check picker-upper.
39 Step stealthily, informally: TIPPYTOE. More nursery than informally, I'd say.
40 World Golf Hall of Famer Isao: AOKI. A hugely entertaining Japanese golfer now playing the PGA Senior Tour.
On a side note, after 30 years of playing golf badly I've now hired professional help and I'm taking lessons. When my teacher saw my swing for the first time she said "Ohhh - that's funny". It's a good job I've got a sense of humor.
41 Swift sled : LUGE. Swift indeed. This is what 80MPH flat on your back on what amounts to a tray looks like.
43 Bar pint : ALE. You need one after the luge run.
45 Oxymoronically named British DJ __ Slim : FATBOY. I knew the name, I didn't know that he was a British DJ. Now I do, and I won't confuse him with the restaurant in Pulp Fiction, Jack Rabbit Slim's. Which I did.
46 Poker declaration : I RAISE. I'm a coward. I FOLD.
47 Coral reef enclosure : LAGOON
48 Sleeve band : ARMLET. You don't see these much any more - springy things to go around your arms to make your sleeves the correct length. You get the "just so" amount of cuff protruding from your jacket. Nowadays we buy shirts the right size, it seems the better approach somehow.
49 Camaro __-Z : IROC
53 Greek fable writer : AESOP. He of the convenient vowel-count.
55 Miles away : AFAR
56 Garnish for a Moscow Mule : LIME. Vodka, ginger beer (not ginger ale) and lime. A friend insists it doesn't taste the same unless it is served in the copper mug.
58 Arrests : NABS
61 That, in Spanish : ESO. Numero tres.
62 Bug-eyed TV dog : REN
63 Peculiar : ODD
I think that about wraps it up. Lots of food and drink references so I'm off to figure out what to cook for dinner tonight. Bon appetit!
P.S. Constructor's insight -thanks to Jerome for sharing these notes!
"I thought it intriguing, rare, and somewhat odd that you could have a five letter word that begins with a scrabbly F and no matter how you anagram it, it will still begin with an F.
Thus, FIELD, FILED, FLIED, and FIDEL.
And there’s a fifth one, FELID, which means cat-like. However, that one’s on the cutting room floor with other obscurities. I knew this type of theme wasn’t going to knock anyone’s socks off… especially the crossword hip Corner crowd, but I hoped some might see it as interesting as I do.
For some reason I had a tough time creating a grid that allowed for some juicy and fun fill. I think those damn F’s kept getting in the way. Out of the blue I asked Marti for some help, and like the puzzle pro she is, she designed today’s grid with those lovely NE and SW corners, and found a way to work in a whopping eighteen entries that are six letters or longer.
After tweaking the grid a little and writing the clues, it was off to fame and great fortune with a puzzle you could say was all about the F-word. Or for the critics in the peanut gallery, the F-bomb."