Theme: "Is it hot in here?" — Theme answers all begin with a word that can come after the word heat in a familiar phrase.
- 17A: Pointing digit (INDEX FINGER). [heat index]
- 28A: Choice made without thinking (RASH DECISION). [heat rash — ewww]
- 44A: Firefly (LIGHTNING BUG). [heat lightning]
- 58A: Signal to from the pier, perhaps (WAVE GOODBYE). [heatwave]
- 54D: Summer phenomenon, and word that can precede the first words of 17-, 28-, 44- and 58-Across (HEAT).
For me, this was a relatively easy, competent Tuesday outing with a solid (if unimaginative) theme and some fun fill thrown in for good measure. Sure, you had to grumble your way through E-MALL (63A: Online shopping mecca) and STREWED (42D: Scattered) — Ow! My head! — but those were the only clunkers that jumped out at me. And it was kind of a Two-Fer Tuesday, right? With both SEMI and RIG clued as "Tractor-trailer" (42A and 8D), ADO and FUSS clued as "Commotion" (16A and 18D), and ELAN and BRIO both clued as "Pizazz" (37A and 47D) — which, by the way, I prefer to spell with four Zs and which was the name of my high school pops choir. The only place I slowed down a little was in the SE where I entered art show for ART SALE (49A: Gallery event). I knew that 51D: Eric Clapton classic just had to be LAYLA though (which it was), so it didn't take too long to untangle that corner. All in all, a good Tuesday puzzle. What? Did someone say LAYLA? Oh sure, why not.
- 1A: Fallback option (PLAN B). I usually like to go with "another Plan A" instead.
- 24A: Anka song with the phrase "kiss me mucho" ("ESO BESO"). One of CrossWorld's All-Time Greatest Hits.
- 67A: Grab the tab (TREAT). I think I like the rhyming clues even better than the alliterative clues. And the alliterative clues can be pretty awesome.
- 6D: Civil War battleground (SHILOH). This took me a long time to get and I'm just grateful it wasn't one of the battlegrounds right here in Northern Virginia where I live. That would have been embarrassing.
- 11D: Eschew neutrality (TAKE SIDES). I first misread this as "Eschew neutrally" and couldn't figure out what the heck that could possibly mean.
- 12D: Refine, as a manuscript (EDIT). Ooh, I like this one! I'm not an editor, I'm a refiner.
- 34D: D and F (BAD GRADES). I really like this answer. Snappy and in-the-language, as they say.
- 39D: Mideast honcho (EMIR). We just talked about this on Sunday. You were paying attention, right?
- 59D: GP's gp. (AMA). GP = General Practitioner (i.e., doctor) and AMA = American Medical Association.
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Everything Else — 6A: Knapsack part (STRAP); 11A: Start of a countdown (TEN); 14A: Bull rider's venue (RODEO); 15A: Like a wolfman (HAIRY); 19A: Poke fun at (KID); 20A: Co. leaders, collectively (MGT.); 21A: Pout (SULK); 22A: Acts as a shill for (ABETS); 26A: Petting zoo babies (LAMBS); 32A: Sponge gently (DAB AT); 35A: Stalk in a marsh (REED); 36A: Modern "fingerprint" (DNA); 38A: Four-on-the-floor options (GEARS); 40A: Computer pro (TECH); 41A: Fellow (LAD); 43A: Caravan refuges (OASES); 48A: More valuable to collectors (RARER); 53A: Stage of development (PHASE); 55A: Plumbing problem (DRIP); 56A: Time or Money, briefly (MAG); 57A: 20-vol. reference (OED); 62A: West of Hollywood (MAE); 64A: Places for houseplants (SILLS); 65A: Qt. halves (PTS.); 66A: "Inferno" author (DANTE); 1D: Much-watched interest rate (PRIME); 2D: Pines (for) (LONGS); 3D: Expand, as a collection (ADD TO); 4D: Born, in nuptial news (NÉE); 5D: Exec's perk at a ballgame (BOXSEAT); 7D: Fish holder (TANK); 9D: "__ you for real?" (ARE); 10D: Egyptian monument (PYRAMID); 13D: Silent assents (NODS); 18D: Commotion (FUSS); 23D: Small ammo (BB'S); 25D: Stuff in a muffin (BRAN); 26D: Lewd look (LEER); 27D: Blackjack components (ACES); 29D: Sink feature (DRAIN); 30D: It's sometimes enough (ONCE); 31D: Slangy refusals (NAHS); 32D: Computer giant (DELL); 38D: Heredity unit (GENE); 40D: Places for prices (TAGS); 43D: Remote military base (OUTPOST); 45D: Is afflicted with (HAS); 46D: Use mouthwash (GARGLE); 50D: Walk unhurriedly (AMBLE); 52D: Spew out (EGEST); 53D: Ceremonial splendor (POMP); 55D: Shoulder muscle, briefly (DELT); 60D: Delivery vehicle (VAN); 61D: Compass pt. (DIR.).