Whoa! I had all kindsa trouble with this puzzle ... but that's a good thing! This one felt like a real workout to me. I had the most trouble up in the northwest corner, so let's talk about that first.
Thank God for ELLA and DR. J — they were the only two that came easily to me up there. Other than that, I was just chipping away letter by letter. SKYJACK was the most troublesome entry for me. Why is there a question mark on that clue? Usually, a question mark means that the clue is an idiom but needs to be taken literally. The way I think about it when I'm solving is: "Okay, what's my first impression of this phrase? Well, that's not what they're getting at today. Which word in the clue do I need to look at from a different angle to get where I need to go?" But my first impression of 17A: Take a plane? was, um ... commandeering an airplane. But that can't be right! The word "plane" must be referring to the tool called a planer, or to the geometric meaning of the word. But that J is just screaming out for the word to end in JACK! But HIJACK doesn't fit! As you can tell from my representation of my thought process at the time, I was a mess.
So I lightly penciled in JACK and with the lightly penciled in S at the end of 1A, plus the last three letters of the word, I was able to see ST. KITTS. Then RICE fell into place and IN ORBIT, and EBAN. I thought the answer for 3D: Pluralis majestatis would end in the letters AE becaue it sounded all Latiny to me and I know sometimes Latin words are pluralized with AE. If I had only heard of TOWN WITHOUT PITY (27A: It lost to "Moon River" for a Best Song Oscar) everything would have gone a lot smoother. Alas, no such luck. I had the WITHOUT PITY part, but couldn't figure out the first word. That W was the last letter I entered into the grid. I'm gonna say that W stands for WICKED. ROYAL WE? That's awesome. Wicked awesome.
- 1A: Avid ones keep Life Lists (BIRDERS). The PuzzleParents are now BIRDERS, since they started spending half the year in Costa Rica. I don't know if they keep Life Lists though.
- 19A: Mom and pop financing gp. (SBA). Small Business Administration.
- 20A: Roger who coached eight NHL teams (NEILSON). I had no chance on this one. Got it totally through crosses. Well, crosses and an educated guess. I had also never heard of 10D: 1984 Swedish speed skating medalist SVEN Gustafson, but SVEN sounded like the right name.
- 23A: Collaborator with a Count and a Duke (ELLA). Ella Fitzgerald has collaborated with Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Cute clue.
- 26A: Peak in Thessaly (OSSA). I don't know where Thessaly is, so I tried ALPE first. Late in the week, sometimes you just have to flat-out guess and hope it leads to something.
- 35A: Dr. Ray Langston's TV team (CSI). Another educated guess. I don't watch the show(s) but it came to mind anyway.
- 39A: Puget Sound port (TACOMA). I always have to consciously think about how to spell TACOMA, Washington, because there's a TAKOMA Park, Maryland nearby. (Hi, Vega!)
- 42A: 1964 Record of the Year Grammy winner, with "The" (GIRL FROM IPANEMA). This one brings back nice memories for me. When I lived in New York back in the mid-80s, I partnered up with a young woman who had (and still has) an unbelievable voice (I played piano). We'd do covers at open mic nights in dive bars around the city and this was one of our songs. Good times.
- 45A: Sub. for omitted names (ET AL.). I actually tried NMIS here first, which is something I learned from crosswords (it stands for No Middle Initial).
- 47A: Library Card Sign-up mo. (SEPT.). Guessed on this one too. I mean, it's when school starts so I think it makes sense!
- 49A: French lover? (AMATEUR). I don't know what this means.
- 59A: Not told (UNAWARE). This was another part-of-speech trip-up for me. No wait, not part of speech ... I'm not sure how to explain it grammatically, but I thought the answer would be a word describing the information that wasn't told, not the person who the information wasn't told ro. (Not a part-of-speech issue because both of those words would be adjectives. Yeah, I still got it.)
- 4D: Court physician? (DR. J). DR. J is the nickname of Julius Erving, former pro basketball player (who played on a basketball court — get it?).
- 12D: Golfer's 2-wood (BRASSIE). I'm sure all you golfers got this one right off. I don't recall hearing this term before.
- 24D: Colonial mound (ANTHILL). Because ants live in a colony.
- 28D: "A Room of One's Own" author (WOOLF). Gimme gimme gimme! Woo-hoo! (finally)
- 38D: Some Iberian inns (POSADAS).
- 40D: Mongoose family member (MEERKAT). Reference to MEERKATs always remind me of Life of Pi. It was MEERKATs on that island, wasn't it?
- 41D: Antique oil holder (AMPHORA). Whatever you say.
- 42D: Magazine whose debut issue featured a cover photo of Cindy Crawford dressed as Washington (GEORGE). I vaguely remember this magazine. I believe it came out in the mid-90s and was started up by ... JFK Jr.? Can that be right? Let me look it up. ... Yep, JFK Jr. and 1995.
- 43D: Comb breaker, perhaps (MAT). Does this mean MATted hair breaks a comb? That's the only way I can make sense of it. And why isn't this a wrestling clue??
- 57D: USN rank (CWO). CWO? WTF? Oh, Chief Warrant Officer. Learn something new Every. Damn. Day.
Other crosswordese in the puzzle that we've already covered:
Follow PuzzleGirl on Twitter.]
Everything Else — 8A: Weapons restriction of a sort (TEST BAN); 15A: Circling (IN ORBIT); 16A: Coin's "heads" (OBVERSE); 18A: Formed before delivery, as concrete (PRECAST); 22A: Taste (SIP); 25A: Dance genre (TAP); 32A: View from Jackson Hole (TETONS); 33A: Safe portfolio investments (T-NOTES); 34A: Ad-committee link (HOC); 36A: Come to a head (BOIL UP); 46A: Hammett's Spade (SAM); 48A: Like some painkillers, briefly (OTC); 53A: Frat letter (RHO); 54A: Told (RELATED); 56A: Easily attached (STICK-ON); 58A: Island north of Trinidad (GRENADA); 60A: Sect linked to the Dead Sea Scrolls (ESSENES); 61A: Jai alai balls (PELOTAS); 1D: "Bullitt" co-star (BISSET); 2D: Therapy aid (INK BLOT); 5D: "Personal Witness: Israel Through My Eyes" author (EBAN); 6D: Potatoes alternative (RICE); 7D: Nevis neighbor (ST. KITTS); 8D: Leadership position (TOP SPOT); 9D: River through Aragon (EBRO); 11D: Hammett's Spade, e.g. (TEC); 13D: Rink stats (ASSISTS); 14D: Working capital? (NET PAY); 21D: __-di-dah (LAH); 26D: Sunroof and CD changer, e.g. (OPTIONS); 29D: Arouse, as wrath (INCUR); 30D: Open without a corkscrew (UNCAP); 31D: 1900 Puccini premiere (TOSCA); 36D: Pink Gin ingredient (BITTERS); 37D: Sources of ambiguous answers (ORACLES); 39D: "Pencils down" (TIME'S UP); 44D: Makes up (for) (ATONES); 49D: __ end (AT AN); 50D: Early Iranian (MEDE); 51D: Big name in alternative press (UTNE); 52D: Shiraz spending money (RIAL); 55D: Suffix with oct- (ANE).