THEME: "Rama Lama Ding Dong"—The words in that song title are found at the end of four theme entries
I finished this puzzle with no idea what the theme was—I knew that 43D/EDSELS had something to do with it, but in Across Lite, long clues are truncated in the clue list and in teeny print above the puzzle so I hadn't read the complete clue: Named for a car model, group who sang the 1961 hit formed by the ends of 17-, 26-, 41- and 52-Across. Aha! The long Down answers, MACHINE GUN and ANGORA GOAT, are not involved in the theme. The puzzle seemed sort of weird, but when "RAMA LAMA DING DONG" popped out, I was delighted.
- 17A: 360-degree artwork (CYCLORAMA). This term is not at all familiar to me. The Wikipedia article is informative, and covers Bulgaria, the Netherlands, the U.S. Civil War, and Disney's EPCOT Center.
- 26A: Former resident of Lhasa's Potala Palace (DALAI LAMA).
- 41A: Wildly exciting, in slang (RING-A-DING). This...is not the sort of slang I use.
- 52A: Long-time Chinese leader (MAO ZEDONG). The Mao Tse-tung spelling fits neither the space in the grid nor the theme's spelling requirements.
- 43D: Named for a car model, group who sang the 1961 hit formed by the ends of 17-, 26-, 41- and 52-Across (EDSELS).
- 16A: Give __: care (A HOOT). Nobody loves a partial...except Woodsy Owl. He's just glad these words can be recycled rather than being thrown away to pollute the earth.
- 34A: Limerick's place (IRELAND). That's Limerick, the Irish county. If you're looking for limericks, the ribald verse, check out Roger Ebert's blog, where more than 700 limericks have been submitted in the comments. If you're easily offended by ribald language, I beseech you, do not click that link.
- 46A: Golfer who won the 1992 U.S. Open (TOM KITE). I like full names in a crossword, but this guy? I dunno. Dull?
- 47D: Melville novel—OMOO is uninspired fill, but when it crashes into OMAHA (51A: Nebraska city), it picks up some oomph. Or maybe omph.
- 24D: "In space no one can hear you scream," for "Alien" (TAGLINE). Scary!
- 38D: Shi'ite leader (AGA KHAN). I feel a connection to the Aga Khan via Minnesota. No, really. Carleton College's president Bob Edwards left Minnesota to work for the Aga Khan on educational matters.
- 42D: Bygone bringers of cold blocks (ICEMEN). Once again, cold weather has arrived and I have failed to caulk the old iceman's door to my kitchen. You wouldn't believe how cold it gets in the kitchen cabinet the ice door is behind. In January, there's really no need for the ICEMEN.
Well, we've covered AZO and OMOO before, so that leaves only a few Crosswordese 101 candidates. Hmm, ENZO Ferrari, anagrams A-ONE and AEON, and French ETRE? Let's go with basic French.
Crosswordese 101: The easiest clues are often fill-in-the-blank clues, such as 13D: Raison d'__: reason for being for ÊTRE. ÊTRE is the verb "to be," so it's super-common in French but if you've managed to avoid learning any French, maybe you don't recognize the word. Its letters make it an appealing glue for crossword constructors, though, so you need to know this puppy. Commonest clues: French 101 verb/word/infinitive; To be, in Toulouse/in Brest/to Henri/in Tours; and Vichy/Versailles verb.
Everything Else — 1A: Workout room (GYM); 4A: Bit of hardware (SCREW); 9A: Suffix with sea (-SCAPE); 14A: Extinct ostrich-like bird (MOA); 15A: Games authority (HOYLE); 16A: Give __: care (A HOOT); 17A: 360-degree artwork (CYCLORAMA); 19A: Hardly the gregarious type (LONER); 20A: Buckeye (OHIOAN); 21A: "Skip the sordid details" ("SPARE ME"); 23A: Like many airports: Abbr. (INTL.); 24A: __ firma (TERRA); 25A: Well fluids (INKS); 26A: Former resident of Lhasa's Potala Palace (DALAI LAMA); 30A: God of hawks? (ARES); 31A: Gear part (COG); 32A: Frank (WEENIE); 33A: Fanzine, e.g. (MAG); 34A: Limerick's place (IRELAND); 36A: Old Prizm automaker (GEO); 37A: Represent as identical (EQUATE); 39A: __ and outs (INS); 40A: East Berlin's Cold War counterpart (BONN); 41A: Wildly exciting, in slang (RING-A-DING); 43A: Guesses "true" when the answer is "false" (ERRS); 44A: Pulitzer winner Walker (ALICE); 45A: Concert halls (ODEA); 46A: Golfer who won the 1992 U.S. Open (TOM KITE); 49A: Prescription measure (DOSAGE); 51A: Nebraska city (OMAHA); 52A: Long-time Chinese leader (MAO ZEDONG); 55A: Boston airport (LOGAN); 56A: Throw out (EXPEL); 57A: Nitrogen-based dye (AZO); 58A: Pork cuts (LOINS); 59A: Essentials (NEEDS); 60A: Go one better (TOP); 1D: Canyon or Sierra (GMC); 2D: Toy on a string (YO-YO); 3D: Rapid-fire weapon (MACHINE GUN); 4D: "Eats, __ & Leaves": punctuation handbook (SHOOTS); 5D: Reef stuff (CORAL); 6D: "Saving Private __" (RYAN); 7D: Common street name (ELM); 8D: Cunning sort (WEASEL); 9D: Not paid hourly (SALARIED); 10D: Bach work (CHORALE); 11D: Superior (A-ONE); 12D: Keats work (POEM); 13D: Raison d'__: reason for being (ÊTRE); 18D: Golf course (LINKS); 22D: Shrimplike crustaceans (PRAWNS); 24D: "In space no one can hear you scream," for "Alien" (TAGLINE); 25D: Mosul resident (IRAQI); 26D: Forest female (DOE); 27D: Source of mohair (ANGORA GOAT); 28D: Bearings (MIENS); 29D: Near-eternity (AEON); 30D: From the U.S. (AMER.); 31D: Cash alternative (CREDIT); 34D: Neapolitans, e.g. (ITALIANS); 35D: Director Lee (ANG); 38D: Shi'ite leader (AGA KHAN); 40D: Server's basketful (BREAD); 42D: Bygone bringers of cold blocks (ICEMEN); 43D: Named for a car model, group who sang the 1961 hit formed by the ends of 17-, 26-, 41- and 52-Across (EDSELS); 45D: Leaked slowly (OOZED); 46D: Turnpike fee (TOLL); 47D: Melville novel (OMOO); 48D: "The Gift of the __" (MAGI); 49D: Info (DOPE); 50D: Auto designer Ferrari (ENZO); 53D: Stump creator (AXE); 54D: Red state org. (GOP).