- 17A: Beatles classic (A DAY IN THE).
- 24A: Stevie Wonder classic (FOR ONCE IN MY).
- 37A: "Annie" classic (IT'S THE HARD-KNOCK).
- 46A: "Dirty Dancing" classic (THE TIME OF MY).
- 58A: Sinatra classic, and hint to what's missing from this puzzle's other classics (THAT'S LIFE).
What am I missing? The song titles are supposed to have the word life at the end but … they don't. And Frank Sinatra's "classic" "That's Life" is a hint. I guess what I'm saying is, this theme really doesn't do it for me. Because I had a hard time figuring out the theme, the fill gave me quite a bit of trouble too. That didn't bother me though — actually I kind of liked it for a change — but if I'm going to work hard I want a payoff. Two good long answers and a couple tricky clues aren't enough. In fact, the tricky clues mostly just got on my nerves. For example, ARF ARF (22A: Woofer's output?). Ugh. I think what I really needed was for the theme to rock and it just … didn't.
- 28A: Hot (IRED). This word just needs to go away.
- 51A: Coming-out party? (DEB). A debutante is a party (person) at a coming-out party.
- 57A: Two little words? (I LOVE). "I LOVE you" is sometimes referred to as "three little words."
- 3D: Beating one won't get you anywhere (DEAD HORSE). This is a beautiful entry. Best thing in the grid by far.
- 5D: Center opening? (EPI-). Both this and 7D: Centric opening (ETHNO-) are tricky, I guess. But why does one have a question mark and the other doesn't? I guess if you're going to put two prefixes so close together you should do something to try to make it interesting, but I don't think this does it.
- 9D: Actress North, once touted as "the new Marilyn Monroe" (SHEREE). I guess that didn't work out so well for Miss SHEREE.
- 24D: Bass or drum (FISH). This one goes in my "plus" column. Good use of misdirection.
- 32D: James's creator (IAN). I saw 48D: Bond creator (EPOXY) before this entry and was trying to figure out how to fit FLEMING into five spaces but it just wasn't working. And then he pops up somewhere else.
- 34D: News promo (SOUNDBITE). My second-favorite grid entry.
- 39D: "High Noon" actress Jurado (KATY). Perhaps she was "the new Sheree North"?
- 19A: China's Zhou __ (ENLAI).
- 23A: Code word (DAH).
- 26A: Thor's father (ODIN).
- 33A: Genesis twin (ESAU).
- 45A: WWII gun (STEN).
- 55A: Robert Morse title role (TRU).
- 8D: At birth (NÉE).
Everything Else — 1A: Chain of hills (RIDGE); 6A: Top rating (TEN); 9A: Startle (SCARE); 14A: Stay a step ahead of (ONE-UP); 15A: Tribe that fought the Navajo (UTE); 16A: Soaked (HOSED); 20A: Covers (LIDS); 21A: Very long time (EON); 26A: Thor's father (ODIN); 29A: What peddlers peddle (WARES); 31A: Bank leader? (CITI); 40A: Celebratory feeling (GLEE); 41A: Bit of naughtiness (NO-NO); 42A: Sharp (ACUTE); 43A: Dover domestic (CHAR); 54A: American elk (WAPITI); 56A: Efficient (ABLE); 60A: Snazzes (up) (SEXES); 61A: A-line line (HEM); 62A: Offer, as one's two cents (PUT IN); 63A: Hot meeting? (TRYST); 64A: Source of iron (ORE); 65A: Church closings (AMENS); 1D: "Fantastic Mr Fox" author Dahl (ROALD); 2D: Home to more than a billion (INDIA); 4D: Half a 1950 musical (GUYS); 6D: Teach privately (TUTOR); 8D: At birth (NÉE); 10D: Kind of man or game (CONFIDENCE); 11D: Narnia lion (ASLAN); 12D: Fix, as a slot machine? (REARM); 13D: Uplift (EDIFY); 18D: Night light (NEON); 22D: Astringent (ACRID); 25D: Blast cause, briefly (NITRO); 27D: Some cops (DETECTIVES); 29D: Rug (WIG); 30D: Ga. airport (ATL); 31D: Regular duty (CHORE); 35D: Take the stage (ACT); 36D: Mandolin kin (UKE); 38D: As a friend, to Fifi (EN AMI); 44D: Regular alternative, informally (HI-TEST); 45D: X-rated stuff (SMUT); 46D: Unexpected climax (TWIST); 47D: In better health (HALER); 49D: "... O, be some __ name": Juliet (OTHER); 50D: Bowler's division (FRAME); 52D: Puckish (ELFIN); 53D: Has-__ (BEENS); 56D: Astringent compound (ALUM); 58D: Nevertheless, briefly (THO); 59D: Baths (SPA).