- 17A: Soundly defeat by cheating? (DRUB THE WRONG WAY).
- 25A: Gloomy Cuban? (DOUR MAN IN HAVANA).
- 46A: Discerning pub competitor? (DART CONNOISSEUR).
- 59A: What loving couples exchange? (DEAR-TO-DEAR GRINS).
- 37A: Grade that describes this puzzle's theme (D PLUS).
[I have no idea what this photo means, but it came up in my image search for D+ and I just had to share it with you.]
I had a good overall solving experience with this one. [Cue broken record] I still wish we were offered more of a challenge on Fridays, and I wonder when I'll get used to Friday puzzles having themes.
All of the original phrases are well-known and the resulting phrases, together with their clues, are for the most part clever. For some reason I'm not feeling DEAR-TO-DEAR GRINS. Is it because it's the only one with two Ds added? Or maybe because the visual I got in my head was a couple just standing there smiling at each other (for some reason kinda creepily)? In any case, this one feels off but maybe that's just because the others are so good.
My favorite entries include:
- 15A: "Amazing!" ("OH WOW!").
- 55A: Notable early student of Bela (NADIA). I wouldn't have remembered that NADIA Comaneci's coach was named Bela, but once I had a few letters in place, it came to me. I remember watching NADIA get all those 10s like it was yesterday.
- 9D: Sports logo since 1972 (SWOOSH). When I was in 8th grade, everybody wore white Nike tennis shoes with a red swoosh. Everybody. Then all of a sudden one day Mary Fercho came prancing into class wearing white Nike tennis shoes with a blue swoosh. And the world was never the same.
- 49D: Canine mascot of the National Fire Protection Association (SPARKY). Looks great in the grid and I guess it was a piece of information hanging out in my brain way back there in the cobwebs, because once I got a few crosses in place it jumped out at me.
- 20A: Henri's health (SANTE).
- 52A: Martyred first bishop of Paris (ST. DENIS).
- 63A: __ à feu: French gun (ARME).
- 1A: Part of the deal (HAND). Even after I got this answer through crosses, I was still thinking it had something to do with shaking hands at the end of a business deal or other agreement. But no, it's about dealing cards.
- 24A: Maker of the LX 150 scooter (VESPA). I hope whoever came up with the name VESPA was extremely well-compensated. That's a great name.
- 33A: Birthplace of seven presidents (OHIO). Four letters and it's probably not Utah. (Not that there's anything wrong with Utah. It's just in the wrong part of the country to be considered.)
- 50A: Cheerios (TA-TAS). Were you looking for today's clunker? Here it is. "Cheerio" and "ta-ta" are both ways of saying "good-bye." In the singular, I would have no problem with this clue/answer pair. In the plural … ugh.
- 6D: Scoreboard initials (RHE). Runs Hits Errors.
- 24D: Talking Heads song "Sax and __" (VIOLINS). Does anyone else have trouble piecing together the down answers because it's hard to read them vertically? I swear, I had **OLINS in place and couldn't see the answer. On really hard puzzles, when I have a situation like that, I'll write the answer out horizontally so I can see it better. Today, I just let the crosses take care of it for me, but it was a big D'OH moment when the answer became clear (5D: Head-slapper's cry).
- 56D: Wine partner (DINE). Couldn't get "roses" out of my head, so this took a while.
- 62D: __ Tafari (RAS). Well I definitely learned something today. I knew that Rastafarians worship Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. But I didn't know that Haile Selassie was once known as RAS Tafari. So there ya go.
- 14A: Great Plains tribe (OTOE).
- 41A: Iroquois enemies (ERIES).
- 68A: Sherpa's sighting (YETI).
- 2D: Handle for a little shaver? (ATRA).
- 13D: Eyelid malady (STYE).
- 58D: Piedmont wine region (ASTI).
Everything Else — 5A: Little pieces, idiomatically (DRABS); 10A: Benevolent group (ELKS); 16A: House leader during Bill's presidency (NEWT); 21A: Critical (DO-OR-DIE); 22A: Lummox (OAF); 32A: Photo finish? (OPS); 34A: Drive off (REPEL); 35A: Ardor (ZEAL); 40A: "James and the Giant Peach" writer (DAHL); 43A: Start of a Durante refrain (INKA); 45A: Olympics participant since 1992, to the IOC (CRO); 51A: Music store section (POP); 64A: Carnival dance (SAMBA); 65A: Unite after a break, in a way (KNIT); 66A: Caring (KIND); 67A: Magazine for horse owners (EQUUS); 1D: Mortar carriers (HODS); 3D: Animal, vegetable or mineral (NOUN); 4D: Unsettled one? (DEBTOR); (D'OH); 7D: "How adorable!" ("AWW!"); 8D: Big name in dairy (BORDEN); 10D: Like cameos (ENGRAVED); 11D: Lascivious (LEWD); 12D: Title river in a 1957 film that won seven Oscars (KWAI); 18D: Latin lover's declaration (TE AMO); 19D: Stock term (NO PAR); 23D: Saudi royal name (FAHD); 25D: Missed out, maybe (DOZED); 26D: Met tragedy, perhaps? (OPERA); 27D: It merged with Piedmont in 1989 (USAIR); 28D: Playful bite (NIP); 29D: Swiftly (APACE); 30D: Jacket style popular with '60s rockers (NEHRU); 31D: Words that lead to nothing? (ALL OR); 36D: Educated (LETTERED); 38D: Game based on crazy eights (UNO); 39D: Card in 38-Down (SKIP); 42D: Meager (SCANT); 44D: Words after play or for (A SONG); 47D: Idle (OTIOSE); 48D: Where GOOG is traded (NASDAQ); 52D: Badlands Natl. Park site (S. DAK.); 53D: Dustin's "Tootsie" costar (TERI); 54D: Denounce (DAMN); 57D: Down but not out (IN IT); 60D: Bird in the bush? (EMU); 61D: __ Dhabi (ABU).