The fireworks are almost over. In an effort to keep Dooley calm, we watched a movie tonight, so I didn't even start on the puzzle until 10:15. He's still under the effects of a tranquilizer, so he's happily snoozing as I write.
The puzzle's theme is revealed at 45A: Cable channel...with a hint to the answers to the five starred clues (TBS). The five theme answers--all TBs--are:
20A: Undersized bats and gloves, e.g. (T-ball equipment)
30A: Chophouse order (T-bone)
37A: Founder of Mesa Petroleum (T. Boone Pickens)
42A: Alternatives to rope tows (T-bars)
55A: Caucasus capital (Tbilisi, Georgia). This is my favorite answer of the bunch, and I got it with only two letters in place...the second G and the A. A few days ago I didn't know the place, but yesterday I had a reader from Tbilisi on this blog. It's such a kick to know that readers come from all over the world, and we all have the New York Times puzzle in common.
After an initial read-through of the clues, I had very little in place. I had a partial answer for 10D: Like Romulus and Remus (twin born). I originally had twin boys, then erased everything except twin. Another incorrect answer up in the NE at 16A: Like one leg of a triathlon (swum). I had swim, but that wasn't getting me an answer for 11D: Southern Methodist team, with "the" (Mustangs). That corner finally fell into place.
For some reason, though, the SE came together rather quickly. 45D: Turn on and off (toggle) was a gimme (or a good guess), as was 47D: Didn't split (stayed). Those were the two letters that gave me the long theme answer at 55-Down. I initially struggled with 53A: J.F.K.'s command (PT boat)...I was looking for something like "ask not." I know it wasn't a command, but it was a pretty strong suggestion.
62A: Serving from a grill (kabob) is my preferred spelling. I remember seeing it as kebab a few weeks ago. That just looks wrong.
When I see a clue like 14A: April Fools' Day baby and think astrological sign, it usually means I've been doing more puzzles than usual. It paid off this time...Aries.
Liked the cross of 23A: Accountant's advice (tax tip) and 3D: Mountaineering aid (ice axe).
Was very relieved to see that 23A: Accident letters was EMS, rather than my first thought...the very morbid DOA.
Some fill that you don't see every day:
41A: Dirty campaigner (smearer). Ick...it's such an ugly word.
5D: Strategies (game plans).
7D: Lubricate (oil up).
35D: Makes a very modest living (scrapes by).
37D: Stretchy attire (tube tops). I wanted something with lycra or spandex, but no dice. This works.
56D: Logical start? (ideo).
Did not know 63A: Relative of a plum (sloe). I know the word, and it's been clued several other ways...didn't know it was related to a plum.
Didn't recognize the quote in 18A: "A fly can't bird, but a bird can fly." It's from a poem called Cottleston Pie, by A. A. Milne. That's news to me.
Way past my bedtime, so I'll wrap it up. See you tomorrow.