This was the easiest Paula Gamache puzzle I've ever seen...not that there weren't some tough spots and some words I'd never heard of. All in all, though, it was a very doable (with the help of my friend Dogpile) Thursday puzzle.
The theme is revealed at 53A: Unfeeling nature...or a literal hint to 19-, 31- and 38-Across (heart of stone). The word stone is at the heart of the three theme answers.
19A: Internal-combustion device (piston engine).
31A: "American Psycho" author (Bret Easton Ellis).
38A: Loser in a staring contest (first one to blink). This was the easiest answer, by far.
First, the words I'd never heard of and would never have gotten without the help of crosses.
45A: Temper, as metal (anneal). Huh?
63A: Equipment in chuck-a-luck (dice). Well, of course I've heard of dice...it was chuck-a-luck I didn't know.
7D: Sinn __ (Fein). Maybe someone can fill me in.
32D: Marie Antoinette, par exemple (reine). And that's French for...what?
41D: Stewpot (olla).
Clues I really liked include 5A: Contents of a scoop (info), 9A: Glass substitute (mica), 18A: "Skunk egg" (onion), 4D: It's read to the unruly (riot act), 8D: The end (omega), 25D: Visitor from afar (alien), 44D: Beach maximizer (low tide), and 57D: Sturdy feller? (axe).
Favorite answers in the puzzle:
30A: "Trés sexy!" (oo la la)...not quite sure how many words to make that, but I think oo is spelled ooh.
61A: Apply (exert). I like any words that have an X.
5D: Beach adjacent to Copacabana (Ipanema)...and there were songs about both the clue and the answer.
24D: "Rag Doll" singer, 1964 (Valli). I wasn't sure how to spell it, though, and had Valle at first.
26D: Kind of surgery for the eyes (Lasik). That seems like a rather wordy clue for this late in the week.
42D: One who's late to adopt the latest (old fogy). One of my favorite cartoon strips is Zits...Jeremy often makes fun of his dad for this very thing. Poor ol' Walt.
Well, that one doesn't show Walt, but it was the only one I could find without searching forever. I used to think if I had a boy, he would have been Calvin...and I'm sure he'd have grown up to be Jeremy. Counting my blessings...
31D: Without question (by far) is another favorite.
It seems kind of strange to like 46A: Vaccine target (polio), but it's a word I don't recall seeing before. I went to school with kids who had polio...it's hard to remember there was a time before the vaccine.
Knew but struggled to remember 64A: Best of the early Beatles (Pete). Also struggled with 66A: Tolkien's talking trees (ents). I don't know why I can never remember this...got it from crosses.
That's it for tonight. Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.