Like the recent Paul Hunsburger puzzle written up by marti, this puzzle is its own theme. In a wonderful blend of visual (the big "E" created by the black squares, and the really difficult task of cluing AND filling a puzzle without ever using the most COMMON letter in the alphabet, the e. To do both is awesome. This is Bruce's first LAT publication, his NYT debut in January of 2013, was with 4 "1"s made of the blocks, then his second recently on Valentine's Day that created a little KERFUFFLE , and finally another grid theme Tuesday in the NYT as a collaboration with Peter Collins. The fill includes every other letter and some really sparkly fill including three grid spanners, PHOTOGRAPH ALBUM, PSYCHOANALYZING and TOTALITARIANISM. Also a slew of nice nine letter fill, ALAN ARKIN, CANADIANA, COSTA RICA, DRAMATICS, HAND HOLDS and PUSSYCATS, and really fun triple 7 stacks top and bottom. I am really curious as to what everyone thought of this and whether you will grade it an A or an F. Is there a theme, or is it a themeless without any E?
65A. What this grid's big symbol is, Across and Down : MISSING.
(Note from C.C.: The Saturday we had a while ago is a themeless puzzle without E in the clue or grid. Also, today's grid features a Top to Bottom symmetry.)
1. Small amount : JOT. I get my J right away.
4. WWII MIA location : POW CAMP. Missing In Action (not Miami). Prisoner Of War. Stalag 13 (0:51)?
11. NFL captains : QBS. QuarterBacks. A very misleading and not necessarily true clue.
14. __ Jima : IWO. Back in "WWII, the big one". What 1950's TV show is that line from?
15. High-class tobacco products : HAVANAS.
16. Samovar : URN. not an expert, other than from my Russian grandmother
17. GPS finding : LATitude. A CSO to the Times? Or maybe Jimmy B. (3:28)
18. Good chap : OKAY GUY. Not sure why, but I really liked this fill.
19. Nonpro sports org. : AAU. Amateur Athletic Union. Has a storied but controversial HISTORY in American amateur sports.
20. Plot : TRACT. Land not a story.
22. Providing with a transcript, possibly : CCING. Another CSO?
24. __-tzu : LAO. Father of TAO.
25. Climbing aids : HAND HOLDS. Nice alliterative fill. Many resorts and cruise ships are offering climbing places.
29. Arm support : SLING.
31. Viral chorus? : ACHOOS. Really another very fun clue that is Friday fair; that talent is nothing to sneeze at.
32. Turkic Russian : TATAR.
33. Histrionic display : DRAMATICS. I think every family has at least one Drama Queen.
37. Roast, in a Baja dish : ASADA. Thank you Taco bell for teaching me this one.
38. Stuck : IN A RUT.
39. __ mining : STRIP.
40. "Argo" actor : ALAN ARKIN. Still have not seen that movie, though Arkin was great in Catch-22.
43. NBA coach Thomas : ISIAH. Sports trivia are tough on many solvers, especially when you are using a great player who had a very short coaching CAREER.
44. Historic town in Lazio : TIVOLI. Really obscure, even if the garden is famous. VIEW. (1:09)
45. Santa __ winds : ANA.
46. Innocuous sorts : PUSSYCATS. Not my first thought but in hindsight it works, usually with Big and baby talk.
50. Way to find out what you know : FINAL. Exam.
52. 3-D graph part : Z-AXIS. To join the x and y to get the third dimension.
53. "It's just __ thought ..." : AS I.
54. "South Pacific" song : BALI HAI. It has been linked many times, again?
60. Highway or city stat : MPG. Miles Per Gallon.
61. "Illmatic" rap star : NAS.
62. Mythical symbol of purity : UNICORN. Purity, really? I did not know this.
63. Fitting : APT.
64. Room with hoops : GYM. I guess a basketball court is a room, and I like the hoops misdirection.
66. Albany is its cap. : NYS. I understand this must stand for New York State but I find this a real stretch as NY is the state where Albany is the capital.
1. Dump : JILT. Originally a word for harlot, it became just a deceiver in love. Probably from a woman named Gillian or Jill. So maybe that is why they went up the hill.
2. Man __ : O'WAR. What a random and challenging fill in the blank. A great racehorse.
3. Autocratic approach : TOTALITARIANISM. This was a big word I heard often while I was growing during the Cold War.
4. Book with shots : PHOTOGRAPH ALBUM. Really nice clue/fill, especially bracketing a nine letter fill.
5. Poison __ : OAK. Ivy, Oak and Sumac, the poison sisters.
6. Morgantown's st. : WVA. West Virginia whose basketball team in 31-0 this season, only undefeated team.
7. Low island : CAY. We have lots of Cays and Keys in our area.
8. Afr. country : ANGola.
9. If said again, group in a 1950s African uprising : MAU. You can draw your own conclusions, but this was talked about when I was very little. HISTORY.
10. Studying on a couch? : PSYCHOANALYZING. My favorite Psyc professor was a Neo-Freudian.
11. Draw back with alarm : QUAIL.
12. Stock mark : BRAND. Nicely done, a mark on the livestock.
13. Curls up : SNUGS. verb (used without object), snugged, snug·ging. to lie closely or comfortably; nestle. Meh.
21. Books about Toronto and Ottawa, say : CANADIANA. Like Americana, *CSO to Eh!.
23. Country abutting Nicaragua : COSTA RICA, where everyone goes for inexpensive plastic surgery.
25. Put away : HAD. I had 3 pieces of Papa John's.
26. Not down: Abbr. : ACRoss. Context.
27. FDR loan org. : NHA. The National Housing Act was a landmark in the residential buying experience in the US. LINK. Much of what I do these days relates to closings, and foreclosures.
28. Papa John's rival : DOMINOS. All pizza no matter how you slice it.
29. GDR spy group : STASI. German Staatsicherheit meaning State Security. You can READ all about it.
30. Holds up : LASTS.
34. Annoy : IRK. Is it coincidence this rhymes with jerk?
35. __ bono: "Who stands to gain?" in law : CUI.
36. B&O stop : STN. We know it is station, but is it STA or STN?
40. Org. for Nadal and Djokovic : ATP. Association of Tennis Professionals.
41. Lucy of "Kill Bill" : LIU. Elementary anyone?
42. Colorado NHL club, to fans : AVS. The rather depressing nickname, the Avalanche.
47. Band guitarist, in slang : AXMAN. The axman from AXE, BOBBY BARTH. (2:48)
48. Lacking stability : TIPPY. A stretch for me; that table was tippy? No Hedren or Walker?
49. Army squad NCOs : SSGTS. Staff sergeants?
50. Sharp tooth : FANG, So as a vampire, you name your bar Fangoria.
51. Words from Watson : I SAY. All I think of was Nigel Bruce, " I say, HOLMES".(1:09).
55. Buy from Sajak : AN I. Apparently Pat sold all the Es.
56. Paris lily : LIS. You all know 'Fleur de Lis.'
57. Suffix with tact : ICS. So this is ok fill because it is clues properly, but would tact ending be ok?
58. __ polloi : HOI. Literally "The people" in Greek, hoi means "the" so do not say 'the hoi polloi'. Has come to have derogatory connotations.
59. Valiant's son : ARN. The young prince.
I am neither young nor a prince, but I had a royal good time with the grid and all the fresh fill. It seemed oddly easy after all, but I cannot imagine the work needed to avoid a single "e" in fill and clues. Get ready for more daylight and less sleep. Turn the clocks ahead; reporting from Ocho Rios, Lemonade out.