I solved this puzzle late last night after I got home from book club ("The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake." General consensus: awesome concept, mediocre execution, unsatisfying ending. I actually liked it more than everybody else.) I really didn't have any trouble with the puzzle at all until I got the southwest corner where I just couldn't figure out what the heck was going on. Doesn't help that I entered SOLAR FLAIR before the spelling part of my brain kicked in. Solar flair! Astronomy based "Project Runway"? I don't know. It made me laugh pretty hard when I discovered my mistake. I'd like to say that the all the trouble was caused by the ugly SNEERY (63A: Derisive), but that's just not the case. The rest of that corner is actually really lovely so, in my mind, SNEERY paid off. The real problem is that I think of JAGS as more of "sprees" than 50D: Flings and don't remember ever hearing of 51D: Novelist EVAN Hunter. Rounding out the problems I had in that corner, GARNET is a 61A: Abrasive mineral? Who knew? (Besides Barry, I mean.) And thinking about the fact that 50A: Sterno, for one is a JELLY is really ooking me out for some reason. (Is "ooking" a word? Maybe not, but it gets the point across, doesn't it?)
As I was solving the puzzle I was thinking "Ooh, I wanna talk about this," and "Ooh, I wanna talk about that," so let's get right to it since it's late and I know you all are probably sitting there refreshing your browser every ten seconds because you just can't wait to see what I have to say.
- 9A: Support base (PLINTH). Needed plenty of crosses to get this awesome word.
- 18A: Screwed up (BLEW IT). For some reason I couldn't read the clue as a verb phrase, I was stuck on thinking it was an adjective.
- 37A: Four-time NBA MVP (WILT CHAMBERLAIN). What a treat to see a grid-spanning basketball player in Barry's grid! He's more of a baseball guy, so I was surprised. Also, got it with only the T in place which, obviously, was a big help in keeping my solving going really smoothly.
- 42A: Cox who played Drew in "Deliverance" (RONNY). No idea. RONNY Cox sounds like a back-up singer from the Motown era.
- 53A: Gee (THOU). Very tricky! (Too tricky?) One gee (G) = one grand = one thousand dollars = a THOU.
- 59A: Party animal? (ELEPHANT). That would be the Republican party.
- 1D: Winston Groom hero (GUMP). I totally forgot that "Forrest Gump" the movie was based on a book. And I'm pretty sure I never knew the author's name.
- 2D: Newton or curie (UNIT). These are units of … I don't know. Something science-y.
- 3D: La __: ocean phenomenon (NIÑA). I would kind of like to know the difference between El Niño and La NIÑA. But not enough to look it up right now.
- 8D: Residential street warning (SPEED BUMPS AHEAD). One of the topics of conversation at the book club last night was the unbelievable fight the neighborhood has been involved in this past year about "traffic calming" measures that about half the neighborhood wanted to put in place and the other half thought was some kind of fascist affront to their very beings. The nastiness that ensured was truly bizarre and discouraging in a faith-in-humanity kind of way.
- 11D: Summer cooler (ICE TEA). Yeah, yeah, yeah. Needs a D. I know, I know.
- 21D: Pass on a ketch (SAIL BY). I read this as "Pass on a kVetch" and couldn't figure out what the heck was going on.
- 23D: Tribal Council prop (TORCH). Is this a reference to "Survivor"? 'Cuz that's where my brain went.
- 54D: Former UN weapons inspector Blix (HANS). Poor HANS Blix. I don't imagine I'm the only one who can't remember whether he's the guy who said there were WMD's in Iraq, or if he's the guy who went in and said there were not WMD's in Iraq. Kind of a big difference there. I think if I were the latter, I'd want to make sure people remembered me for the right thing!
- 30A: Mass garb (ALBS).
- 40A: White, in Waikiki (KEA).
- 43A: Old pol. units (SSR'S).
- 26D: Native New Yorkers (ERIES).
Everything Else — 1A: Places for pieces (GUN RACKS); 15A: Worker's advocate (UNION REP); 16A: Foe of Mark Antony (CICERO); 17A: Imagination (MIND'S EYE); 19A: NEA supporters (PTA'S); 20A: Third of seven: Abbr. (TUES.); 22A: Quantum mechanics subjects (ATOMS); 23A: "Bojangles" Robinson, for one (TAP DANCER); 25A: El Cid player, 1961 (HESTON); 29A: Life lines? (BIO); 33A: Like an excited World Series crowd (AROAR); 34A: Sign of life (PULSE); 36A: Baseball stat (ERA); 41A: Up (HAPPY); 45A: Substitutes for forgotten words (LAS); 46A: Releases (LETS GO); 47A: It may be essential (FATTY ACID); 52A: Vengeful Quaker of fiction (AHAB); 57A: Profits (AVAILS); 62A: Compact (ALLIANCE); 64A: Can't abide (DESPISES); 4D: Angler's supply (RODS); 5D: Q&A part: Abbr. (ANS.); 6D: Greek islander (CRETAN); 7D: Excite (KEY UP); 9D: Pollutant found in NCR paper (PCB); 10D: Color similar to pale plum (LILAC); 12D: Where to get a muffuletta sandwich (NEW ORLEANS); 13D: Garnish (TRIM); 14D: Red __: candy (HOTS); 24D: Narrow margin (NOSE); 25D: Peddles (HAWKS); 27D: Phenomenon that emits X-rays (SOLAR FLARE); 28D: Work with a shuttle (TAT); 31D: Fetch (BRING); 32D: Maker of eneloop rechargeable batteries (SANYO); 34D: Melonlike fruit (PAPAYA); 35D: Didn't get 100, say (ERRED); 38D: Stop order (HALT); 39D: Large amount (LOT); 44D: Hospital solution (SALINE); 46D: Abuses freedom of the press, perhaps (LIBELS); 48D: Texas city named for a president (TYLER); 49D: Valencia street (CALLE); 53D: Golden Triangle native (THAI); 55D: Formerly (ONCE); 56D: Versatile wheels (UTES); 58D: Dump (STY); 60D: Spot (PIP).