Today's puzzle seemed a little tougher than your typical Wednesday puzzle. I'll be curious to know if others felt that way...maybe I was a little slow. I caught on to the theme fairly quickly, but there were several answers that just stayed blank for far too long.
The theme--adding PA to common phrases, resulting in new phrases that are clued in very different ways.
20A: Back-to-the-slammer order? (PArole reversal).
30A: Reason the kids were left alone? (PArent strike).
40A: Reward for a Ringling invention? (circus PAtent). This one clinched the theme for me and was my favorite of the bunch.
54A: Scuff marks on the prairie? (Buffalo PAwings). Without a doubt, this looked the strangest in the grid. Buffalopa wings?
Things I didn't know that caused me to tear my hair out:
14A: 1980 John Carpenter chiller (The Fog). Don't see scary movies, don't read scary books. It sure didn't help that I didn't have a clue about 4D: Music from across the Atlantic (Afro pop). WTF?
29A: Cheerful (sunny). Didn't know 29D: 1970s tennis great Smith (Stan) and was guessing Alan when I had the last two letters in place. That made for a strange-looking word for cheerful.
11D: "Oklahoma!" gal (Ado Annie). I think I've fallen for this one before. I hereby resolve not to fall for it again. I might have been able to get sunny if I had figured this one out.
Things I wasn't sure about, but my guesses panned out:
25A: Son of Judah (Onan). I know the story of Onan, but I didn't know he was the son of Judah. IMOO, it's one of the strangest stories in the Bible. I mean, if God were to kill everyone who...well, never mind. Read the story if you don't know it.
3D: Looked like a wolf (leered). I wasn't thinking that kind of wolf.
12D: Ceylon, now (Sri Lanka). I am almost as geographically impaired as I am sports impaired. I only got this because I had the first three letters in place, and it couldn't have been anything else.
33D: 1969 and 2000 World Series venue (Shea). I get so excited when I get a sports clue! I have to admit that having the H and A pretty much made it a dead giveaway.
I'm ashamed to admit that I laugh every time I look at the top line and see 7A: Dietary needs (fats) and 11A: Balaam's beast (ass) sitting next to one another. It would be even funnier if the clue was dietary need. My bad.
1A: Toyota Camry model (Solara). My graduation present to myself was a 2004 Solara. I'd always wanted a car with a sunroof but had always been too practical to justify paying for one. Practicality be damned! I love my Solara and I love having a sunroof. Sometimes I run the air conditioner with the sunroof open. Decadent, I know.
58A: "Young Frankenstein" hunchback (Igor). That has to be one of the funniest movies ever. It's hard to believe it's over thirty years old...or that I am.
65A: Alley pickups (spares). This was great, especially on the heels of Monday's bowling theme.
7D: Dalmatian's master, sometimes (fireman). I've never seen a dalmatian at any of the fire stations here. Do firemen still have dalmatians...or is that a thing of the past?
41D: Do (coif). I don't know why I was thinking hairdo, but I was.
42D: Least favorably (at worst). Maybe this falls under good guess, since I had a couple of the letters in place.
43D: Starchy dessert (tapioca). The last time this was in the puzzle it was clued as Calvin's least favorite dessert...the thermos of phlegm. Gross kid. Gotta love him.
And a few things I really liked:
28A: Hard-rock connector (as a).
39A: Get stuck with, as the cost (eat).
59A: TV's Howser (Doogie). I had my gallbladder removed seven years ago by a doctor who looked about the same age as Doogie Howser. I asked him if he had his mother's permission to cut on me. Fortunately he had a good sense of humor.
That's it for tonight. Here's the grid...I don't think there are any errors in it.
See you tomorrow.