THEME: N to M — "N" is changed to "M" in the final letter of familiar phrases (all words involved in the letter change are 3-letter "-UN" / "-UM" words)
A very low word count for a themed puzzle (72). Maybe adding a couple black squares could've helped prevent the chain of random names that made this puzzle less-than-stellar. LARISSA? *That* is your central answer? That's weak. Weaker still is LARISSA (35A: City in Thessaly) into ADELPHI (another Greek name) (38D: Long Island university) into [choke] ORLE (52A: Outer area of an escutcheon) into RONSON (wtf?) (47D: Recent Zippo acquisition). Rest of the grid is pretty smooth, but that whole area from center to SE is kind of unsightly. As for the theme gimmick. I mean, it's fine. We've seen this type of thing a million times. It's an adequate basis for a puzzle. Quality of the theme answers *really* matters when the theme is a simple "change-a-letter." Today, one answer wins: ANNIE GET YOUR GUM. The others, I've already forgotten.
- 17A: Suggestion to singer Lennox after a garlicky meal? (ANNIE GET YOUR GUM)
- 24A: Jamaican group winding down after a gig? (BAND ON THE RUM)
- 45A: Moocher at McDonald's? (HAMBURGER BUM)
- 58A: Feared words from an accountant? (HERE COMES THE SUM)
Made the SE worse by dropping in I REGRET for I REPENT (44D: Words of atonement). Also, since I formally refuse to acknowledge the existence of the so-called Episodes I-III of "Star Wars," I know only one actor who played Obi-Wan, and his name was ALEC (Guinness). Sadly for me, ALEC was already in the grid. EWAN (McGregor) came only with crosses (64A: He played Obi-Wan). Found JUDASES very hard to see for some reason (had every letter but the "J" before I got it). GOIN' isn't the greatest fill, but the clue kind of redeems it (18D: "___ Out of My Head": 1964 hit).
Crosswordese 101: ORLE (52A: Outer area of an escutcheon) — should I wait for you to look up "escutcheon?" Wikipedia's "Heraldry" entry defines "ORLE" as "A bordure separated from the outside of the shield" — so, a border that follows the contours of the shield but is not flush with the actual edge of the shield. A floating border. "Escutcheon," despite sounding like some horrific malady, is simply the shield part of a coat-of-arms.
See you Monday,
[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
Everything Else — 1A: Bank statement no. (ACCT.); 5A: The Miners of Conf. USA (UTEP); 9A: One way to attend a party (STAG); 13A: Lincoln feature (BEARD); 15A: __ City: Baghdad suburb (SADR); 16A: Cook book (COMA); 17A: Suggestion to singer Lennox after a garlicky meal? (ANNIE GET YOUR GUM); 20A: Half of the Brady bunch, to Carol (STEPSONS); 21A: Clothes line? (CREASE); 22A: Samuel Johnson portraitist John __ (OPIE); 23A: Traitors (JUDASES); 24A: Jamaican group winding down after a gig? (BAND ON THE RUM); 28A: "Yours truly calling" ("IT IS I"); 29A: Downed (ATE); 30A: "Ditto" ("SAME"); 34A: Warmup toss (LOB); 35A: City in Thessaly (LARISSA); 39A: "Oedipus __" (REX); 40A: Sylvester's problem (LISP); 42A: Hägar creator Browne (DIK); 43A: Roman moon goddess (DIANA); 45A: Moocher at McDonald's? (HAMBURGER BUM); 49A: Acid neutralizers (ALKALIS); 52A: Outer area of an escutcheon (ORLE); 53A: Afternoon service (TEASET); 54A: Fragments (SNIPPETS); 58A: Feared words from an accountant? (HERE COMES THE SUM); 60A: Frankfurt's river (ODER); 61A: Canceled (NO-GO); 62A: Emcee's job (INTRO); 63A: Nos. divided by dashes (SSNS); 64A: He played Obi-Wan (EWAN); 65A: Strong taste (TANG); 1D: "__ le roi!": French Revolution cry (ABAS); 2D: Tiny amount (CENT); 3D: Mr. Peanut prop (CANE); 4D: Surveyors' tools (TRIPODS); 5D: Online newsgroup system (USENET); 6D: Does lacework (TATS); 7D: Eponymous ice cream maker (EDY); 8D: Gets by special means (PROCURES); 9D: Roller coaster sounds (SCREAMS); 10D: Senate apparel (TOGAS); 11D: Tickle pink (AMUSE); 12D: Fun partner (GAMES); 14D: Pillage (DESPOIL); 18D: "__ Out of My Head": 1964 hit (GOIN'); 19D: Language heard in Karachi (URDU); 23D: Flies, in a way (JETS); 24D: Law in the works (BILL); 25D: Paris possessive (À TOI); 26D: Writing points (NIBS); 27D: 17-syllable poem (HAIKU); 31D: Libyan, probably (ARAB); 32D: You might get one right after being seated (MENU); 33D: Checkup (EXAM); 36D: Ticket order? (ADMIT ONE); 37D: Barbecue order (RIBS); 38D: Long Island university (ADELPHI); 41D: Sci-fi weapons (PHASERS); 44D: Words of atonement (I REPENT); 46D: Baldwin of "30 Rock" (ALEC); 47D: Recent Zippo acquisition (RONSON); 48D: Gumption (GRIT); 49D: Oldest musketeer (ATHOS); 50D: It's on the Aire (LEEDS); 51D: Carpenter with a soothing voice (KAREN); 54D: Nintendo rival (SEGA); 55D: This, in Tijuana (ESTA); 56D: Make a right, say (TURN); 57D: Industrial pollutant (SMOG); 59D: Cut (MOW).