Theme: "Hooooo" — Theme answers are two-word phrases with the letter string OWL hidding within them.
- 20A: Indoor gardener's tool (GROW LIGHT).
- 28A: Big drinker's "secret" (HOLLOW LEG).
- 33A: Tutor's charge (SLOW LEARNER).
- 43A: Golden retriever? (YELLOW LAB).
- 54A: Hard-to-see critters lurking in 20-, 28-, 33- and 43-Across (NIGHT OWLS).
The theme is okay, although not terribly sparkly. GROW LIGHT is kinda of cool. Makes me think of illicit plants being grown in a locked room in a basement. Just me? Okay, whatever. I don't love seeing SLOW LEARNER in the grid. It's a legitimate phrase, but it seems kind of … crass. Cluing a dog with a "?"-clue of another type of dog? I can't decide if that's cute or not.
Eventually I worked everything out and did feel a sense of accomplishment but it just seemed hard for me and not necessarily fun.
I'm off to California for the Crosswords L.A. tournament tomorrow. Hope to see some of you there!
Crosswordese 101: 4D: Movie mogul Marcus LOEW is the founder of Loews Theatres and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). And that's pretty much all you need to know about him for crossword puzzle purposes.
Everything Else — 5A: Lumps of earth (CLODS); 10A: They're full of beans (PODS); 14A: In that event (IF SO); 15A: Center (HEART); 16A: Stat start (RHEO-); 17A: What the hyphen in an emoticon represents (NOSE); 18A: Like many microbrews (ON TAP); 19A: Actor McGregor (EWAN); 22A: Vigilant (ALERT); 24A: __ Vandelay, recurring fake "Seinfeld" character who turns out to be a real judge in the final episode (ART); 25A: Reagan court appointee (SCALIA); 26A: Wing, perhaps (ANNEX); 31A: Greenish blue (TEAL); 32A: Come down hard (POUR); 39A: Churlish sort (BOOR); 40A: Piano, to a pianist (SOFT); 48A: __ d'Alene (COEUR); 49A: Hardy and North (OLLIES); 50A: It brought Hope to the troops: Abbr. (USO); 52A: Sign of peace (VEE); 53A: Dr. J's alma mater (U. MASS.); 57A: Milquetoast (WIMP); 58A: String quartet part (VIOLA); 59A: Like Granny Smith apples (TART); 60A: Wrath, in a classic hymn (IRAE); 61A: Played a part (ACTED); 62A: Object of adoration (IDOL); 63A: Former OTC watchdog (NASD); 64A: Visibly moved (TEARY); 65A: Give up (CEDE); 2D: Start of an opinion (I FOR ONE); 3D: Right after (AS SOON AS); 5D: Gospel singers (CHOIR); 6D: Pool measure (LENGTH); 7D: Curse (OATH); 8D: "Curses!" ("DRAT!"); 9D: NASCAR sponsor (STP); 10D: Course for a budding DA (PRE-LAW); 11D: Words of resignation (OH WELL); 12D: Sweetheart (DEARIE); 13D: "In America" novelist Susan (SONTAG); 21D: Loose (LAX); 22D: Squash variety (ACORN); 25D: Talk like thish (SLUR); 27D: Pipe fitting (ELL); 29D: "William Tell," e.g. (OPERA); 30D: Mauna __ (LOA); 34D: Wind section (OBOES); 35D: Astounds (WOWS); 36D: Cybercackle (LOL); 37D: Pedro's "that" (ESO); 38D: 1973 landmark case (ROE V. WADE); 41D: Nuclear reactor component (FUEL ROD); 42D: Amtrak canyon crosser (TRESTLE); 43D: "I give up" ("YOU WIN"); 44D: New York city where Mark Twain is buried (ELMIRA); 45D: Pack animals (LLAMAS); 46D: Talked like thith (LISPED); 47D: Base player? (BUGLER); 48D: Base bunk (COT); 51D: Not on the up and up (SHADY); 54D: "Good one!" ("NICE!"); 55D: Scintilla (IOTA); 56D: Narc suffix (-OTIC); 58D: Vintner's container (VAT).