THEME: Working for the WEAK END — "EE" words in familiar phrases get changed to "EA" homophones, creating wacky phrases, which are clued "?"-style
This is a pretty unimaginative theme. About as weak a "change-a-letter" theme as I've ever seen. I would think you could come up with potential theme answers to this one All Day Long. The vowel change is minor and unsurprising, and the resulting "wacky" answers are mostly just dull. I didn't even like JAPANESE BEATLE, which is as close as a theme answer comes to being interesting in this puzzle. The non-theme fill is mostly good, though I could never see OMRI again and be quite happy (16A: Katz of "Hocus Pocus") [Katz of what now?]. A POSE, AS IT, and A TO B aren't terribly welcome either, but the the rest is solid. Like the long Downs FOOTSTEP (10D: Suspense movie sound) (I had BEEP BEEP at first!) and (esp.) BIPLANES (37D: Some crop dusters). I think there's a theme in that last one ... something like STRAIGHT SHOOTER, BIPLANE, GAY APPAREL ... only, you know, symmetrical.
- 20A: Theft with a clean getaway? (STAINLESS STEAL)
- 25A: Filling the shelves with no leftover merchandise or space? (STOCKING FEAT)
- 47A: Loud signal when the fries are done? (POTATO PEALER) ... The signal is the PEAL, not the PEALER. The PEALER makes the signal. Further, I've never seen the word "PEALER" in my life.
- 55A: Yoko? (JAPANESE BEATLE)
[Sorry, not a BEATLE]
Crosswordese 101: OMRI Katz (16A: Katz of "Hocus Pocus") — Born 1976. He was on "Dallas" for eight seasons (1983-91) as John Ross Ewing. This is the only reason anyone knows him, if they know him. Unless you were a big fan of "Adventures of Dinosaur City" and fondly remember his stirring turn as Timmy. In short, OMRI would be forgotten by time and the crossword if he didn't have a -MR- at the center of his short name. If you ever wonder why weird- or odd-looking words recur in a puzzle, try the Pull-Out Test. That is, start yanking letters out of the word in question and see if any other letters could go in their places, and if so, how many different letters. There's a good chance your options will be limited. I tried it with ARETE the other day. I can pull the "A" and put in a "C" to get CRETE, but after that ... it's rough. With "OMRI," you can pull the "R" and replace it with an "N," but otherwise, there's really nowhere else to go. That lack of flexibility explains why, once that answer comes up as a possibility, construction-wise, it's really hard to let it go. The oddity can save you from a serious tear-down.
P.S. look out for OMRI Casspi, who already has a greater claim to fame than Katz — he's the first Israeli to play in the N.B.A. (drafted last year, currently a member of the Sacramento Kings)
Not much else to say about this one. Had UPTURNS for UPTICKS (5D: Market advances), and had the most trouble in the center, where I had FAN for NUT (28D: Enthusiast) and SLAM for SLUR (31A: Insult).
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Everything Else — 1A: Big theme park star (SHAMU); 6A: Fancy dance (BALL); 10A: Cookie fruit (FIGS); 14A: Fabulous storyteller (AESOP); 15A: Reed instrument (OBOE); 16A: Katz of "Hocus Pocus" (OMRI); 17A: Mill input (GRIST); 18A: Two-time 1980s skating gold medalist (WITT); 19A: German wheels (OPEL); 20A: Theft with a clean getaway? (STAINLESS STEAL); 23A: Bruise treatment (ICE); 24A: Corpulence (OBESITY); 25A: Filling the shelves with no leftover merchandise or space? (STOCKING FEAT); 30A: Manx, for one (CAT); 31A: Insult (SLUR); 32A: Attractive locale (MECCA); 36A: Short range (A TO B); 38A: Play for time (STALL); 41A: [It's gone!] ([POOF!]); 42A: No-frills (BASIC); 44A: Word repeated in a famous FDR quote (FEAR); 46A: St. whose northernmost division is Boundary C ounty (IDA); 47A: Loud signal when the fries are done? (POTATOPEALER); 51A: Without means of support? (BRALESS); 54A: Mil. rank (SGT); 55A: Yoko? (JAPANESE BEATLE); 60A: Take too much of, briefly (O.D. ON); 61A: Fictional plantation (TARA); 62A: They have their pride (LIONS); 64A: Ascend (RISE); 65A: __ Valley: Reagan Library site (SIMI); 66A: 1940s-'50s NFLer __ "Crazylegs" Hirsch (ELROY); 67A: Turndowns (NOES); 68A: Carrier since 1948 (EL AL); 69A: Heads to sea (SAILS); 1D: Droop (SAG); 2D: Bierce defines it "His" (HERS); 3D: "__ stands now ..." (AS IT); 4D: Inlaid work (MOSAIC); 5D: Market advances (UPTICKS); 6D: Get a spare, perhaps (BOWL); 7D: Irish Rose's guy (ABIE); 8D: Plenty (LOTS OF); 9D: Doesn't bother with (LETS BE); 10D: Suspense movie sound (FOOTSTEP); 11D: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame architect (I.M. PEI); 12D: Epithet for many leaders, with "the" (GREAT); 13D: Frivolous (SILLY); 21D: Diamond et al. (NEILS); 22D: Mine stratum (SEAM); 25D: Line crosser of a sort (SCAB); 26D: "Later" ("TA-TA"); 27D: Plains natives (OTOS); 28D: Enthusiast (NUT); 29D: Plant connection (GRAFT); 33D: Prepare to strike, snake-style (COIL); 34D: It can't be understood until it's broken (CODE); 35D: Whence the wise men? (AFAR); 37D: Some crop dusters (BIPLANES); 39D: Sign before Virgo (LEO); 40D: End (LAPSE); 43D: Either of two filmmaking brothers (COEN); 45D: Grandly entertains (REGALES); 48D: Fly over Africa? (TSE-TSE); 49D: Go after with vigor (ASSAIL); 50D: Hun king (ATTILA); 51D: He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame the same year as Billie Jean (BJORN); 52D: Music player (RADIO); 53D: Strike __: model (A POSE); 56D: Funny Bombeck (ERMA); 57D: Leave in a hurry, slangily (BAIL); 58D: Actress Petty (LORI); 59D: Hydroxyl compound (ENOL); 63D: Method: Abbr. (SYS.).