Theme: INNER EAR (38D: Balance organ that's literally found in the answers to starred clues) — theme answers have the word EAR hidden in them.
- 20A: *1979 Sister Sledge hit (WE ARE FAMILY).
- 30A: *Look for clues (NOSE AROUND).
- 46A: *"Fatal Attraction" costar (ANNE ARCHER).
- 57A: *Military treatise written by Sun Tzu (THE ART OF WAR).
- 11D: *Decorators' suggestions (AREA RUGS).
Crosswordese 101: The most important thing to remember about ARAL is that it's a sea — hence today's clue (64A: Inland Asian sea). That way you won't get it confused with URAL, which is a river (also a mountain range, but it's the river you're more likely to get confused with the sea). Other things to remember about ARAL: it's landlocked, it's shrinking, it's near the Caspian, and it's on the border of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
This is going to be super quick today. I've had a couple really long days and I'm exhausted. Seems like all I do is drive my kids back and forth — it must be summer! I will say, though, that spending time with my kids during this summer break has been pretty fun so far, and I really didn't expect that. I expected it to feel more like no breaks from the child-rearing drudgery but, as it turns out, my kids are pretty fun to hang out with. Or maybe it's just my new meds. Whatever it is, I'm madly in love with my kids today and am looking forward to the rest of the summer. Check back with me again in August. I might have changed my tune by then.
The puzzle! Let's talk about the puzzle! Pretty easy, only a couple things slowed me down. For example, the random (and completely unfamiliar to me) geographical clues. I got both PORTO ALEGRE (14A/26A: City in southern Brazil) and ASSAM (33A: Indian state bordering Bhutan) entirely from crosses. And I've never heard of Jon CRYER (66A: Jon of "Two and a Half Men"). I originally went with an S at the end of TIBIAE (8D: Leg bones) — both plural versions are used in crossword puzzles. The last letter I filled in was the P at the cross of TYPEE (44A: Melville's first novel) and PRAT (45D: Rear end). I just couldn't remember the Melville title, although I'm sure I've seen it in a puzzle or two. And PRAT? Who knew? I always thought the PRAT in PRATfall meant "fake" or "deceptive" or something like that. In fact, it just means, well, "rear end."
- 10A: Shakes indicating affection, perhaps (WAGS). Saw this bumper sticker just today: "Wag more, bark less."
- 19A: Longtime pageant host Parks (BERT). Wasn't sure of Parks was Bert-with-an-e or Burt-with-a-u.
- 36A: Clue on a weapon (PRINT). Sometimes I'm just too detailed for my own good. I read the clue, looked at the grid and thought "Darn! Fingerprint won't fit!"
- 65A: "__ Rock": 1966 hit (I AM A).
- 2D: Shredded (TORE UP). I was tricked by this one. Thought "shredded" was an adjective so entered torn up. But it's a verb.
- 6D: Tries (HAS A GO AT). Anyone parse this as "has a goat"?
- 13D: Retd. Air France fliers (SSTS). Ladies and gentlemen, Exhibit B A for why you need to pay attention to the Crosswordese 101 lessons! We just talked about this one two days ago!
Everything Else — 1A: Lieu (STEAD); 6A: Start of a 10-Down address (HTTP); 15A: Operatic number (ARIA); 16A: Diamond stats (ERAS); 17A: Robin's weapon (ARROW); 18A: Kemo __ (SABE); 23A: Trailers, e.g. (ADS); 24A: Fanatic (NUT); 25A: Delay (LAG); 28A: Hormel product (SPAM); 35A: Cheap cigar (STOGIE); 39A: Bellicose Norse god (TYR); 41A: Actress Kudrow et al. (LISAS); 42A: Justice replaced by Samuel in 2006 (SANDRA); 48A: "Gosh darn it!" (RATS); 52A: Toyota until 2006 (CELICA); 53A: Come to the plate (BAT); 55A: Pasture (LEA); 56A: Wall St. purchase (SHR); 60A: React to sad news (WEEP); 62A: 1975 Wimbledon winner (ASHE); 63A: Meat in the oven (ROAST); 66A: (CRYER); 67A: Thatcher, politically (TORY); 68A: Street asset, briefly (CRED); 69A: Wiesbaden's state (HESSE); 1D: Gives rise to (SPAWNS); 3D: Problms in ths clue (ERRATA); 4D: Origin suffix (-ATOR); 5D: Wooden connector (DOWEL); 7D: Lode carrier (TRAM); 9D: Spanish stews (PAELLAS); 10D: Blogger's milieu (WEB); 12D: Fragrant flower (GARDENIA); 21D: They may be diehards (FANS); 22D: Seuss's king of the pond (YERTLE); 27D: More like a well-made s'more (GOOIER); 29D: "Deal or No Deal" host (MANDEL); 31D: Rocker Patty who married John McEnroe (SMYTH); 32D: __ Moines (DES); 34D: The Bosporus, e.g. (STRAIT); 36D: Non-commercial TV ad (PSA); 37D: South American spread owner (RANCHERO); 40D: Reuben holder (RYE BREAD); 43D: Antiquated (ARCHAIC); 47D: Roman emperor (CAESAR); 49D: Unfailingly (ALWAYS); 50D: Flirts with (TEASES); 51D: 1964 Nobel Prize decliner (SARTRE); 54D: Spelunker's aid (TORCH); 56D: Hit hard (SWAT); 58D: Sighed line (AH ME); 59D: Warning to the gallery (FORE); 61D: Practice (PLY).