THEME: M AND MS (45D: Mars mouthful; also, a hint to this puzzle's theme) — title + name, where both start with "M"
This theme is pretty weak, and pretty SPARSE to boot (49D: Thinly populated). Only three short theme answers, and then the awkward-looking M-(non-ampersand) AND-MS over in the SW corner. Issues: there are lots of other possibilities, so these examples feel completely arbitrary; MISTER is spelled out, making it unparallel to MRS.; and the "MR." in "MR. MAGOO" is abbreviated, not spelled out (see also the lack of ampersand in MANDMS). The whole thing feels like a decent germ of an idea that wasn't given the time, care, and attention it needed to become a good puzzle. Slapdash. I mean, the MAYOR in the NE (16A: City chief) is making think of MAYOR MCCHEESE — now that's an M&M theme answer!
- 20A: Etiquette authority (MISS MANNERS) — see also MARPLE, MOLLY, and MUFFET, etc.
- 38A: Cantankerous toon (MISTER MAGOO) — see also MIYAGI, MICROPHONE, MOM, MOTO, etc.
- 57A: Sheridan's misuser of words (MRS. MALAPROP) — see also MINIVER (fewer viable options here)
I disliked AT DUSK, and then redisliked it when it ended up crossing RANT AT. Crossing "AT" phrases = boo. Suggests you have an "AT" TIC (36A: Upper-story storage) (which, fittingly, runs right through this mess). CHERIE in a puzzle that already has OTERI in it (19A: Cheri who impersonated Judge Judy on "Saturday Night Live")? Can't tell whether that's cute or dreadful. To be fair, the fill in this puzzle is mostly pretty good. I mean, throw out the (always horrible) Random Roman Numeral Longer Than Three Characters, and the two "A" partials (A MOST, A HORSE), and things actually look pretty solid. Down in the NW, all the way into the center of the puzzle (i.e. GAS MASK to STOKER), are especially nice.
Crosswordese 101: ORE (25A: Forty-niner's find) — perhaps because it's a reasonably common, widely known word, we have not yet covered ORE. This despite its being one of the most common three-letter words in all of puzzledom. When constructors want to hide it a little, they use plays on words like "vein" or "seam" or "bank deposit" or the like. When they want to hide it a lot, they clue it as [1/100th of a krone].
See you Friday for my penultimate LAT write-up,
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Everything Else — 1A: Criminal group (GANG); 5A: What a judge sets (BAIL); 9A: Modify, as a motion (AMEND); 14A: Suit to __ (A TEE); 15A: Gillette's __ Plus razor (ATRA); 16A: City chief (MAYOR); 17A: Basted, but not with butter (SEWN); 18A: Charge with a crime (BOOK); 19A: Cheri who impersonated Judge Judy on "Saturday Night Live" (OTERI); 20A: Etiquette authority (MISS MANNERS); 23A: Fiver (FIN); 24A: Critter that can carry many times its own weight (ANT); 25A: Forty-niner's find (ORE); 26A: Just after sunset (AT DUSK); 28A: Take the wheel (STEER); 30A: Bridge distance (SPAN); 33A: Antlered grazers (ELKS); 34A: Arboreal Australian critters (KOALAS); 36A: Upper-story storage (ATTIC); 38A: Cantankerous toon (MISTER MAGOO); 41A: Strikes through, as text (X'S OUT); 42A: Seek aid from (TURN TO); 45A: Early 15th-century year (MCDI); 48A: Actor Kristofferson (KRIS); 50A: '90s Defense secretary Les (ASPIN); 51A: "... my kingdom for __!" (A HORSE); 53A: Bad review (PAN); 55A: Jungle swinger (APE); 56A: Prefix with conservative (NEO); 57A: Sheridan's misuser of words (MRS. MALAPROP); 61A: Friend of Eminem (DR. DRE); 63A: Injured (HURT); 64A: Sitar master Shankar (RAVI); 65A: Mazda roadster (MIATA); 66A: Last word in a threat (ELSE); 67A: Serpent's home in Genesis (EDEN); 68A: Jewish feast (SEDER); 69A: Bambi, for one (DEER); 70A: Flippant (PERT); 1D: Riot squad gear (GAS MASK); 2D: Corroded (ATE INTO); 3D: Group that breaks breaking stories (NEWS TEAM); 4D: Mil. leaders (GENS); 5D: Picture book elephant (BABAR); 6D: Does penance (for) (ATONES); 7D: Gadget that gets out the creases (IRON); 8D: Boating spot (LAKE); 9D: "It's __ Unusual Day": 1948 song (A MOST); 10D: Doorway welcomer (MAT); 11D: Good-looker (EYEFUL); 12D: Perfectly safe, as an investment (NO-RISK); 13D: Bar buys (DRINKS); 21D: Marshy tract (MORASS); 22D: Beat up on verbally (RANT AT); 27D: Room treatments (DECORS); 29D: Cure-all potion (ELIXIR); 31D: Miniseries' first section (PART I); 32D: Deposit or withdrawal gizmo, briefly (ATM); 35D: "Dracula" author Bram (STOKER); 37D: Big lizard (IGUANA); 39D: The Continent: Abbr. (EUR.); 40D: Displayed in a public procession (ON PARADE); 43D: Cause to topple (TIP OVER); 44D: Eighth of a gallon (ONE PINT); 45D: Mars mouthful; also, a hint to this puzzle's theme (M AND MS); 46D: Paris sweetie (CHERIE); 47D: Thingy (DOO-DAD); 49D: Thinly populated (SPARSE); 52D: Blur, as wet ink (SMEAR); 54D: Change (ALTER); 58D: Backyard storage (SHED); 59D: Stubborn beast (MULE); 60D: Get ready, for short (PREP); 62D: Hwy. (RTE.).