I loved this puzzle on so many levels that I don't know where to start. After yesterday's disastrous experience, I might have loved any puzzle! It's always good to get the first clue...that happened today. 1A: Marx's collaborator on "The Communist Manifesto" (Engels). I probably would have known that even if I hadn't taken several Sociology courses.
And the theme...aah, the theme. One of the most clever ones to come across my desk in the last year or so. The title, CAR TALK, didn't have anything to do with the NPR show that I enjoy from time to time.
The theme answers...eight of them...are in-the-language phrases, all of which end with the name of an automobile model, with better-than-average clues.
23A: Ford purchased online? (Internet Explorer).
38A: Honda owned by one of the Simpsons? (Homer's Odyssey). Other than Bart, probably the only character I know by name.
58A: City dweller's Acura? (Urban Legend).
80A: Genuine Isuzu? (Real Trooper).
96A: Tiny Volkswagen? (Miniature Golf).
113A: One of the first Buicks to roll off the line? (Twentieth Century). The absolute best of the bunch.
17D: Reliable Suzuki? (Trusty Sidekick).
51D: Half-assembled Mitsubishi? (Partial Eclipse)...the second best.
Seth didn't rest on his laurels after coming up with these. The fill is far from your standard crosswordese...including answers such as:
45A: Group of the same race or culture (ethnos).
49A: Wool source (Alpaca).
65A: Old Jewish villages (shtetls). I was so sure this was wrong that I doublechecked it...that's the right spelling...wrong as it looks.
90A: Traduce (malign). In this case, the clue is as good as the answer.
93A: Go downhill fast (schuss). They haven't come up with a word for how I go downhill fast...if I'm fast, it usually means I fell and am heading for a tree. I prefer cross-country skiing to downhill.
101A: Hanukkah treats (latkes). This month's issue of Guideposts magazine had a story about latkes, along with a recipe...so it was a gimme. I may make them next weekend.
120A: 1983 Stephen King thriller (Christine). I'm not a big Stephen King fan, only because I'm not a fan of any kind of thrillers. I remember that it was made into a movie...which I didn't see. Nice tie-in with the car theme, as was 83D: Old Dodge (Aries).
1D: He ascended to heaven in a whirlwind, in II Kings (Elijah). Other Bible references at 50D: Rachel's older sister (Leah) and 108A: O.T. book (Ezek)...I had Ezra until just this minute, when I realized that the crosses didn't make sense. Didn't even catch that it should have been an abbreviated answer.
16D: Space clouds (nebulae).
33D: Paved road: Sp. (estrada). Earlier in the week, the clue would have referred to actor Erik...and I might have been forced to include a picture.
37D: Admirals' commands (armadas). I was trying to think of words they would say.
39D: Emmy winner for "Roots" (Ed Asner). I don't even remember that he was in it. Hmmm...he played Captain Davies. That doesn't tell me much. Ed Asner has been in hundreds of shows and/or films, but he will always be Lou Grant to me.
68D: Genoa's Palazzo San __ (Giorgio). I didn't have a clue, but it was easy enough to get from crosses.
69D: Sevilla's home (Espana)...not the only Spanish word in this one.
94D: Rendering, say (sketch). I'm glad it didn't have anything to do with lard.
98D: Cabalistic (occult). Another instance where the clue is another great word.
There were some things I actually remembered from previous puzzles...22A: Fort __, captured by U.S. forces in 1814 (Erie), 119A: Religious statue locale (apse), 122A: What a rake may do (leer), 3D: Stadium cheer (go team), 8D: Scott Turow's first book (One L) and 92D: Rapper __ Shakur (Tupac).
Favorite multiword answers include 7A: It's beyond repair (total loss), 21A: So that one might (in order to), 63A: Lolling (at ease), 70A: Home pregnancy checker, e.g. (test kit), 121A: Bad way to be caught (in a lie), 2D: Emphatic refusal (no no no), 66D: Exhaust (tire out) and 95D: Question following, "Oh, yeah?!" (sez who).
Some of my favorite clues...33A: It's needed to find the right key (ear), 67A: Standard (gauge), 75A: Bet (risked), 77A: It's set partly at the Temple of Vulcan (Aida), 87A: Tots' wheels (trikes), 123A: Party throwers (hostesses)...I was thinking along the lines of bouncers, 14D: They listen to dictators (stenos), 19D: Second place from the right (tens), 40D: Size approximation (yea big)...that one took me forever to get, 71D: What Descartes thought of? (idee), 97D: Service charges (tithes)...not accurate, but clever, and 102D: They may have a ball (seers).
I had a total and complete brain lapse for 36D: Kidney-related. I knew the answer, and I knew I knew the answer, but renal wouldn't come to me...until I had a couple of letters in place.
That's it for today. Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.