I had already finished this puzzle before I noticed the entry after the date [See Notepad]. Went back to the NYT site, read what I was supposed to do, then failed to follow directions. As a result, it made no sense to me, and I was forced to wait around until Orange blogged to find out what I had missed.
According to Notepad, I was to shade in the squares in 35A: July 4th message to America (Happy Birthday), then shade in all of those letters wherever they appeared in the puzzle. Unfortunately, I missed three of the letters...as a result, I couldn't see USA. The S was there, but it might have been a 5. With the missing shaded squares the U and A looked like two vertical lines. Anyway, if you click on the above link, you'll see the shaded grid. Mine is no longer readable.
Other entries that were shaded (even on mine):
18A: Knocking sound (rat-a-tat-tat). Reminds me more of a machine gun...at least in the cartoons.
55A: Memorable title film role of 1971 (Dirty Harry). If anyone says that 1971 was a long time ago, I will scream. You will be right, but I will still scream. I was already out of high school and married for the first (wrong) time.
I've been doing several puzzles in my NYT books, as well as finishing up my ACPT packet, so a lot of clues and answers look very familiar. If these don't ring a bell with you, it's because I've seen them elsewhere in the last day or two.
5A: Winkler role, with "the" (Fonz). I'm 99.99% sure that was in a recent puzzle. Its cross with 8D: Fanatic (zealot) was perfect.
9A: Cartoon pics (cels).
63A: __-Rooter (Roto). Pretty sure this was in a recent puzzle. I seem to remember that it didn't pass Rex's breakfast table test.
64A: Old comics boy (Nemo). Sorry, I only know Captain Nemo and the cute little orange fish.
39D: "__ Fine" (1963 Chiffons hit). (He's so). This was definitely in the NYT. If I'm not mistaken, it was also in the New York Sun--same day, in the same place on the grid. Speaking of the New York Sun, I've started doing it on a regular basis. Be sure to check out Green Genius...he always has a link to the current day's puzzle (Monday through Friday). He's an avid reader, a collector of autographs, and a lover of comic books...all of which make for entertaining commentary.
I loved seeing 25D: Enchanting (magical) running vertically down the center of the grid. There was just something...magical...about it.
As much as I loved that, I hated seeing 37D:"Phooey!" (rats). It's not that I mind the expression. We've just had a problem with rats in the last few weeks. As some of you know, last week one of our dogs got into the shed and ate rat poison. Thankfully, I saw him come out of the shed and was able to take immediate action, and he's made a complete recovery. He will be taking a 45D: Medicinal amount (dosage) of Vitamin K for a month.
I tripped up a bit in the northwest corner. I was pretty sure about 23A: Have a TV dinner (eat in), but I wasn't sure about 29A: Classic Mercedes-Benz roadsters (SLs). I had no idea that 1D (Shutters) was closes, or that 20A: (Solid alcohol) was sterol. What all of that meant was that 2D: Having a gap (hiatal) wasn't coming together in my head. I kept thinking hiatus, but that wasn't working with eat in...so, lost a few minutes there. Good thing I wasn't timing myself.
Speaking of timing myself, I'm doing fairly well with the ACPT puzzles. Of course, it will be much different when I'm in a giant room full of people solving, but I'm still amazed at how many I've finished...or nearly finished...within the allotted time. I have two to go, then I'll send off the packet. I think I'm supposed to allow six to eight weeks to get them scored.
Clever cluing at 36D: Green card? (AmEx) and 56D: Correct ending? (ive). And an interesting cross of 15D: Tend the hearth (stoke) with 24A: Fire sign? (smoke).
Well, some of the neighboring idiots are setting off fireworks (they're illegal this year because of the fire danger), and Dooley is frightened by them. I think I'll take him into my room and play some music...try to soothe him without having to tranquilize him. That will most likely have to happen tomorrow.
Enjoy the 4th. Whatever you do, be safe.