Theme: De-Ugh-ify — Theme answers are familiar phrases with the letter string UGH removed, creating new wacky phrases, clued "?"-style.
- 17A: Where to sleep off a bender? (SOT SHELTER).
- 24A: Anxious campus society? (FRAT WITH TENSION).
- 38A: Hair styling prodigy? (DO BOY).
- 46A: Talented jazzman? (CAT WITH THE GOODS).
- 57A: "Airport music so early?" ("ENO ALREADY?").
I'm not going to lie to you, this theme confused me while I was solving. I couldn't put any of the theme answers together with any certainty, but managed to figure out that one started with CAT and one started with FRAT, so I came to the reasonable conclusion that the starts of the other theme answers would rhyme as well. Not so! The next one to appear was SOT and then ENO and I thought to myself "This is a very strange and complicated theme. I hope I am smart enough to figure it out." And I did. Eventually. You see, the theme isn't built on the pronunciation aspect of these words but simply on the spelling. The letters UGH are removed from the first word of each phrase. The resulting first words looked to me like a real mishmash: SOT, FRAT, DO, CAT, ENO. And they are if you try to find a common thread, because there just isn't one. Two of them rhyme with each other, one is pronounced more or less the same as the base phrase, two of them have the UGH removed from the end, while the other base phrases remove the UGH before a terminal T. It just seems … messy to me. I don't believe there's anything fundamentally wrong with this theme. It just doesn't speak to me personally. Or maybe it's speaking to me but it sounds like jibberish.
- 5A: Company whose name is quacked in ads (AFLAC). Man that duck gets on my nerves.
- 28A: Yankee nickname (A-ROD). Alex Rodriguez. Perhaps you've heard of him.
- 31A: 2008 Libertarian presidential candidate (BARR). It doesn't happen often, but Every Once In A While being a politics geek comes in handy.
- 41A: Part of the dog days of Dijon (AOÛT). The French word for August.
- 45A: Atterbury Street gallery (TATE). I didn't know for sure that the TATE gallery was on Atterbury Street, but I knew it was in London and thought Atterbury Street sounded quite British. Quite.
- 56A: Frost, say (POET). Have you all seen the TV show "Chase"? The main character's name is Annie Frost and she Kicks Ass and never forgets to also Take Names.
- 61A: Dino's love (AMORE).
- 62A: Lhasa __ (APSO). This is a type of dog, right? I can never remember if it's APSO or IPSO. I guess I always get "ipso facto" in my head and then can's remember if the dog is different than the Latin phrase or the same. But I know it's one of those two.
- 64A: Mearth's mother, in a '70s-'80s sitcom (MINDY). Okay, it looks like we are going to have to start counting Mork & Mindy references. This is like the third one this year, right?
- 9D: Frequent Martha's Vineyard arrival (CAR FERRY). Because "rich a**hole" doesn't fit. Kidding! I'm sure Martha's Vineyard is full of lovely, lovely people. In fact, I'm a little ashamed of myself for implying otherwise.
- 10D: Is, when simplified (BOILS DOWN TO). This is a great grid entry, but I'm not crazy about the clue.
- 13D: Singer/songwriter born Robert Zimmerman (DYLAN). Gimme!
- 18D: Spoke uncertainly (HAWED). Second time this week for HAW. Did it come to you right away this time? I sure didn't hesitate long.
- 29D: MS. enclosure (SAE). We covered the SASE in a previous Crosswordese 101 lesson. I guess it's not too hard to figure that that the SAE is the same as the SASE. But without the S[tamp].
- 34D: Incriminating record, maybe (VIDEOTAPE). I solved this one from the bottom up and was going to be all kindsa freaked out if SEX TAPE was in the puzzle.
- 36D: Kareem, at UCLA (LEW). Before he changed his name, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was known as Lew Alcindor.
- 20A: Aurora's counterpart (EOS).
- 43A: Friend of Dalí (SERT).
- 53A: Dag Hammarskjöld's successor (U THANT).
- 12D: Olds that replaced the Achieva (ALERO).
Everything Else — 1A: Plain type? (JANE); 10A: Finishing nail (BRAD); 14A: Work (OPUS); 15A: Sporty Mazda (MIATA); 16A: Slick (OILY); 19A: Atl. republic since 1944 (ICEL.); 21A: Smart guy? (ALEC); 22A: Pivoting points (FULCRA); 27A: La __ Tar Pits (BREA); 29A: Worked with horses, in a way (SHOED); 33A: Like some rugs (OVAL); 37A: Pool shade (AQUA); 39A: Off the mark (WIDE); 40A: Abbr. followed by a year (ESTD.); 42A: Fund (ENDOW); 54A: Cramming method (ROTE); 55A: Disturb, as the balance (TIP); 60A: Regarding (IN RE); 63A: Headlights starer (DEER); 65A: Flunky (PEON); 1D: Pianist Hofmann (JOSEF); 2D: "I'm just __ wayfaring stranger": song lyric (A POOR); 3D: More than just into (NUTS ABOUT); 4D: Indirect route (ESS); 5D: Earhart of the air (AMELIA); 6D: Sole order (FILET); 7D: Door fastener (LATCH); 8D: Scarfed up (ATE); 11D: "Sleepy Hollow" actress (RICCI); 23D: Card game with a pre-victory warning (UNO); 25D: Stays afloat, in a way (TREADS WATER); 26D: Fateful card (TAROT); 30D: Operations ctrs. (HQ'S); 31D: Diner option (BOOTH); 32D: __ Dhabi (ABU); 35D: Foofaraw (ADO); 38D: Competitive missile hurlers (DART TEAM); 42D: More than ready (EAGER); 44D: German article (EIN); 45D: Big name in tea (TETLEY); 46D: Missile-shooting god (CUPID); 47D: Make restitution (ATONE); 48D: "Ta-da!" ("THERE!"); 49D: Town on the Firth of Clyde (TROON); 50D: Emulate Scrooge (HOARD); 51D: Playground retort (DID SO); 52D: Watch from the trees, say (SPY ON); 58D: Feature of a two-ltr. monogram (NMI); 59D: "The Gold-Bug" monogram (EAP).