THEME: "Phour Pairs"—Four words with two PH's are connected to the PHrase pH level
- 17A: Plato's field (PHILOSOPHY). Plato, of course, is the name of Sal Mineo's character in Rebel Without a Cause.
- 22A: Wedding hiree (PHOTOGRAPHER). I can't say anything nice about the word hiree. The best hiree, of course, is a sloganeer (slangily). This sentence is brought to you in honor of Rex Parker.
- 45A: City named by William Penn (PHILADELPHIA). Also the Tom Hanks/Denzel Washington movie.
- 54A: Its white variety glows upon exposure to oxygen (PHOSPHORUS). Who remembers their chemistry classes? I barely do.
- 33A: Acidity or alkalinity measurement, which is literally 8 for this puzzle's four longest answers (PH LEVEL). I don't care for this clue. "pH level" doesn't mean "the number of pH's," so the clue is reaching too hard to explain things. A pH of 8 would be alkaline, whereas each individual theme entry with two PH's could be said to have a PH LEVEL of 2, which is highly acidic. Having four acids doesn't add up to a base.
- 16A: Head shape in a recurring "SNL" skit (CONE). Who doesn't love a pop-culture clue that harks back to the late '70s? The golden era of Saturday Night Live, and Laraine Newman's most prominent role to date. She was teenaged Connie Conehead.
- 49A: 1996 bride of comic books and television (LOIS LANE). Why 1996? I know one of you will tell me. What's that? You come here for answers, not for demands for information? Tough beans. It's hard work Googling up all this information, and I'm on vacation.
- 57A: 2008 American League champs (RAYS). I hate them for trouncing the Cubs in the playoffs several years back. But my in-laws get the Tampa and St. Petersburg newspapers here, so I will allow the team this one appearance in the clues.
- 13D: Ann __, only woman to sign a contract with an NBA team (MEYERS). You may be saying, "Who??" I know I was. Take a gander at her storied career in this FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Hall of Fame video:
- 23D: Turkey topper (GRAVY). This is, of course, a bowling reference. A turkey is three strikes in a row, and gravy is four consecutive strikes. You believe me, right?
- 39D: Gung-ho types (ZEALOTS). Gotta love the -lot words. Zealot, harlot, pilot...those three should hang out together.
Everything Else — 1A: Japanese noodle dish (RAMEN); 6A: Starbuck's boss (AHAB); 10A: Stern's opposite (STEM); 14A: Words after complete or close (A SALE); 15A: One of the Simpsons (LISA); 16A: Head shape in a recurring "SNL" skit (CONE); 17A: Plato's field (PHILOSOPHY); 19A: Pretentiously showy (ARTY); 20A: Like mozzarella (SEMISOFT); 21A: Journalist __ Boothe Luce (CLARE); 22A: Wedding hiree (PHOTOGRAPHER); 25A: "The Jazz Singer" subject (JOLSON); 28A: "The Ten Commandments" role (RAMESES); 29A: Lake near Niagara Falls (ERIE); 30A: Driveway surface (GRAVEL); 32A: Driver's aid (TEE); 33A: Acidity or alkalinity measurement, which is literally 8 for this puzzle's four longest answers (PH LEVEL); 35A: 3.0, e.g.: Abbr. (GPA); 38A: Pact (TREATY); 39A: Jerusalem temple site (ZION); 40A: Soft-shell clam (STEAMER); 43A: Foul (SMELLY); 45A: City named by William Penn (PHILADELPHIA); 48A: "Over the Rainbow" composer (ARLEN); 49A: 1996 bride of comic books and television (LOIS LANE); 53A: Glimpsed (SEEN); 54A: Its white variety glows upon exposure to oxygen (PHOSPHORUS); 56A: Satisfy, as needs (MEET); 57A: 2008 American League champs (RAYS); 58A: Absorbed the loss (ATE IT); 59A: Form 1040 IDs (SSNS); 60A: Shoppe sign word (OLDE); 61A: Jr.-year exams (PSATS); 1D: Knocks (RAPS); 2D: Tennis great Arthur (ASHE); 3D: Hurt badly (MAIM); 4D: Orbital shape (ELLIPSE); 5D: River past Iola, Kansas (NEOSHO); 6D: Up in the air (ALOFT); 7D: Aware of (HIP TO); 8D: Shade of blond (ASH); 9D: San Francisco __ (BAY); 10D: Surgeon's tool (SCALPEL); 11D: Contents of some arks (TORAHS); 12D: Chef's preparation (ENTREE); 13D: Ann __, only woman to sign a contract with an NBA team (MEYERS); 18D: Shortly (SOON); 21D: Bedouin's mount (CAMEL); 23D: Turkey topper (GRAVY); 24D: Speak wildly (RAVE); 25D: Lockheed product (JET); 26D: Tram filler (ORE); 27D: Fabrication (LIE); 30D: Driving hazard (GLARE); 31D: On a pension: Abbr. (RET.); 33D: Spin doc (PR MAN); 34D: Pay attention to (HEED); 35D: __ Grissom, former "CSI" role (GIL); 36D: Campaign hustler, for short (POL); 37D: "__ luck?" (ANY); 38D: Fortes (TALENTS); 39D: Gung-ho types (ZEALOTS); 40D: Involuntary contractions (SPASMS); 41D: "__ Company": old sitcom (THREE'S); 42D: Astronaut Collins (EILEEN); 43D: Ocean traveler (SHIP); 44D: Accident (MISHAP); 46D: London insurance pioneer (LLOYD); 47D: Ad hoc oater group (POSSE); 50D: Domain (AREA); 51D: Dark time for de Gaulle (NUIT); 52D: Ballpark figs. (ESTS.); 54D: Veteran (PRO); 55D: Prince of Broadway (HAL).