Theme: Animal Actions — Theme answers are phrases that follow the pattern [verb] + the + [animal name].
Crosswordese 101: When solving crossword puzzles it helps to know various types of fish and words related to fish. Today we're going to concentrate on ROE (13D: Fish eggs). The problem I have is that I'm never sure if the three-letter egg answer is supposed to be ROE or OVA. A quick look through past clues for both of these words helps a lot. Sometimes ROE is clued as a legal pseudonym (either in general, or specifically with reference to Roe v. Wade). But if the clue is going for eggs, it will almost always hint at (or state outright) the "fish/food" part by including words such as shad, salmon, seafood, or delicacy. If they're feeling super tricky that day, the clue will be something like [Preschooler?], meaning a future fish. OVA on the other hand, will either be clued simply as [Eggs] or will strongly nudge you in the direction of science/reproduction by includes words such as lab, gamete, cells, or fertilization. So now you know.
Ya know how sometimes you're solving a puzzle and seem to be right on the constructor's wavelength? The answers come to you seemingly without any thought? Clues that you absolutely know are going to trip people up are crystal clear to you? The whole solving experience just feels smooth and effortless and you feel at one with the universe? Yeah, that didn't happen to me today. I'm sure this is a lovely puzzle, but it was just not doing it for me. Clue/answer pairs seemed awkward to me at best and flat-out wrong at worst. Some old-timey names that I absolutely know just wouldn't come without crosses. It just felt like much more of a struggle than I'm accustomed to on a Tuesday.
- 20A: Talk aimlessly (SHOOT THE BULL). I bet this answer would be different in a Brendan Emmett Quigley puzzle.
- 31A: Blame someone else (PASS THE BUCK). So at this point I'm thinking the animals in the theme answers are all going to be male.
- 41A: Dress to impress (PUT ON THE DOG). This is an awesome phrase.
- 55A: Pass its peak, slangily, as a TV series (JUMP THE SHARK). To me, this entry saved the puzzle even though I'm not crazy about the clue. (Slangily? Why aren't the other theme answers clued the same way?).
- 5A: Imogene of comedy (COCA). There's only this one Imogene, right? It took me waaaay too long to come up with her last name.
- 15A: Made fun of, in a way (APED). Ape is usually clued with reference to copying. I'd never thought of it as a particularly pejorative act, but I guess I can see how you could get there.
- 18A: Composer Édouard (LALO). Remember this guy.
- 19A: In-your-face challenge (SUE ME). In my head, it's "So sue me."
- 24A: Opposite of "All rise" (BE SEATED). I'd like to know if this conjured a courtroom or a wedding for you. Courtroom here.
- 38A: Traveler's choice (AIR). This is one of those awkward ones. I think the answer is too vague for the clue. On the other hand, it's possible I have no idea what I'm talking about.
- 47A: Chimney sweep's sweepings (SOOT). Did you know it's good luck to shake hands with a chimney sweep?
- 66A: Where Homer drinks Duff Beer (MOE'S). Today's predictable "Simpsons" reference.
- 67A: Insect repellent ingredient (DEET). I like how this crosses 54D: Shooting contest with traps (SKEET).
- 2D: Supple (LITHE). Supple sounds like a dirty word to me.
- 3D: What the game is, to Holmes (AFOOT). This one is going in the awkward category.
- 4D: One hiring relatives (NEPOTIST). It seems kind of silly to complain about an answer that came to me immediately, but I'm afraid I entered this answer under protest. It's just ugly.
- 6D: Colorful fish (OPAH). Initially entered beta. That's a fish, right?
- 9D: Dangerous pipe problem (GAS LEAK). Um, I think that's more than just a "pipe problem."
- 21D: It's pitched by campers (TENT). Why the plural in the clue?
- 22D: "Semper fi" military org. (USMC). United States Marine Corp. Hoo-rah!
- 27D: Rapper's cap (DO-RAG). Wanted Kangol. Are Kangol's still around? ... Yep. According to Wikipedia, Jay Leno's bandleader, Kevin Eubanks, wears one almost every night. Kickin' it old skool!
- 39D: Adjust for daylight-saving time (SET AHEAD). Wanted spring ahead.
- 41D: Pleasingly pungent (PIQUANT). Okay, that's an awesome word. I cooked with capers tonight for the first time ever. And piquant is exactly the word I would use to describe them.
- 43D: Bullfighters (TOREROS). Wanted toredors.
- 49D: English Derby site (EPSOM). Epsom/Essex? Epsom/Essex? It's gotta be one of those, but I don't know the difference.
- 50D: Dictator's aide (STENO). Dictator in this case means "one who dictates." A STENO(grapher) is "one who transcribes."
Everything Else — 1A: Family group (CLAN); 9A: Succeed (GOFAR); 14A: Widespread (RIFE); 16A: Prefix meaning "vinegar" (ACETO); 17A: Where the steeple is, vis-à-vis the church (ATOP); 23A: Parlor piece (SETTEE); 28A: Snowfall unit (INCH); 30A: Ex-quarterback Dan (MARINO); 36A: Debussy's sea (MER); 37A: MD's calendar listing (APPT); 39A: Fluids in shots (SERA); 40A: Brazilian port (RIO); 45A: Space along the page border (MARGIN); 48A: Old things (ANTIQUES); 51A: Looks shocked, e.g. (REACTS); 57A: Margaret Mead subject (SAMOA); 60A: Burn a bit (SEAR); 61A: Buffalo's lake (ERIE); 62A: Sci-fi staple (ALIEN); 63A: Aware of (ONTO); 64A: Pre-deal payment (ANTE); 65A: Rising agent (YEAST); 1D: Boorish (CRASS); 5D: Pasadena science institute, familiarly (CALTECH); 7D: Fanzine focus (CELEB); 8D: Hacienda brick (ADOBE); 10D: Of the eye (OCULAR); 11D: Lawyer's charge (FEE); 12D: Place to get bucks fast, briefly (ATM); 25D: Like Olympic races (TIMED); 26D: Año starter (ENERO); 29D: Oven output (HEAT); 31D: Italian city known for its cheese (PARMA); 32D: Like beehives (APIAN); 33D: Baseball or golf (SPORT); 34D: Much of an obit (BIO); 35D: Java holders (URNS); 42D: E pluribus __ (UNUM); 44D: Cultivation tools (HOES); 46D: Military action toys (GI JOES); 52D: Mexican meat (CARNE); 53D: Clichéd (TRITE); 56D: Despise (HATE); 57D: "By the way ..." (SAY); 58D: Stein filler (ALE); 59D: Actress Farrow (MIA).