The trick is figuring out which of the two words that come to mind goes in the across spot, and which will go in the down.
The first pair of answers was discussed in this blog just a couple of days ago. 1A and 1D: Maintain (avow) crosses with aver. Sometimes you just have to play with it to see which word will fit in which position.
5A and 5D: Fiddle with (amend), crossing with alter.
10A and 10D: Rubberneck (gawk) crosses with gape. One of my pet peeves is gapers' block...when traffic is stalled because of the number of people slowing down and/or stopping to gawk at an accidence scene.
25A and 25D: Pair (duo) and dyad. This was easier, since they didn't contain the same number of letters.
26A and 26D: Dodge (evade) and elude.
31A and 31D: Gusto (vim) and verve. Wanted vigor in the down position.
53A and 53D: It's all downhill from here (apogee) and acme. Apogee is definitely a cool word...acme reminds me of Roadrunner. Meep-meep.
57A and 57D: Tore (ruptured), crossing with rent...that sounds so biblical.
There were two very good long phrase answers...4D: They're unlikely to work (wild ideas) and 37D: Death jokes and such (dark humor). The second was a gimme, but I don't know why.
It's an amazing feat of construction when the non-theme fill isn't compromised in order to pull off the theme. That's the case here.
14A: Part of Caesar's boast (vidi). Good one.
20A: Motor Trend job (road test).
29A: Start of a phrase meaning "always" (day in). I can't believe that one took so long to get.
36A: Annual parade site (Pasadena).
42A: N.F.L. coach who was undefeated in 1972 (Don Shula). My dad was a big Miami Dolphins fan. He lived in Colorado for a few years and proudly wore his Dolphins jacket. I always thought someone would jump him.
44A: Like tennis balls and dinners (served). This kind of clue usually makes me stop and think...they're rarely gimmes.
2D: In __ (form of research) (vivo). Is that Latin for in life?
9D: Spy supply (disguises). I'm sure I'm not the only one who pictured these guys. Click here to see one of their first cartoons in Mad Magazine.
35D: Cartoon character with feminine wiles (Smurfette). This one just wouldn't come to mind...even when the M was all I was missing. It didn't help that I couldn't get 39A: __ mer (mal de)...a very pretty word for seasick.
I liked the tie-in 33D: Changers of 34A...giving us maids and linens. I was a hotel maid the summer before my senior year, at a nice hotel on Palm Beach. I made some pretty nice tips...just for changing linens.
The trick-or-treaters stopped at around 8:30 tonight. Looks as though I might get to bed before 10:00. Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.