I struggled with this puzzle on so many levels...only a couple of gimmes and tentative answers that turned out to be so wrong that I then entered wrong guesses for crosses because they seemed to fit.
It was a nightmare! I left it for an hour and started over. Googled some of the obscure things...more about that later...and things started to flow. Well, maybe they dripped.
We put the tree up last night...just the two of us. That hasn't happened since 1992. We have a beautiful prelit tree that's supposed to be a snap to set up. It isn't...or at least it wasn't last night. As you put in a section (there are four), you have to plug several male ends into the correct female receptacles, or you'll end up with a section that doesn't light. Guess what happened last night. By the time that was fixed, I was too tired to hang ornaments or blog. The ornaments will wait until later this morning.
First, the gimmes...
11A: They feature creatures (zoos). I actually thought this would turn out wrong because I couldn't see anything for the cross at 11D: Fan club reading, briefly. It didn't take long to see that as zines.
16A: "You can stop trying to wake me now!" (I'm up). I can't tell you how unfunny that is in real life. Those of you who deal with it on a daily basis will understand...and will know how much I don't miss that part of having children at home. Leslie spent a few nights here this week. She's been working for a local nonprofit through the AmeriCorps program. They changed her from nights to days, so as of last Monday, she had to be at work at 8:00 a.m. Leslie is not a morning person (the only trait she and her sister share, but that's a story for another time). Staying here ensured that she'd get up in the morning and arrive at work on time. I don't know how she'll manage next week without Mom to nag her. To her credit, I think there was only one day when she got cranky and gave me the I'm up line...multiple times.
Speaking of unfunny...how unfunny is it that those were the only two gimmes!
I did have a good guess at 32A: 1961 top 10 hit for the Everly Brothers (Ebony Eyes). You can hear it here...it's one of the top teen tragedy songs of that decade. I prefer Ebony Eyes as done by Bob Welch...completely different song.
Then there were the wrong answers that put me in a world of hurt.
24A: Pillowcase material (muslin). I had cotton...the only kind of sheets (or pillowcases) I sleep on...at least 400 threads per inch.
45A: Melodramatic cry (my hero). I'm almost embarrassed to admit what I had. With the MYH in place, all I could think of was My Hair...which (way in the past, mind you) I cried melodramatically way more often than I cried My Hero.
56A: It appears first in China (family name). Yes, that is true...but I thought I had caught one of their deceptive clues and very proudly wrote Capital C. I'm sure that's what they wanted me to think. That very definitely messed up the southeast corner...big time.
5D: Wearers of four stars: Abbr. (Adms.). Well, hell, I thought generals wore four stars. Having Gens really caused problems up in that corner as well.
That's about the time I headed out to help Don with the tree light problem. I was so frustrated after that...I had no choice but to stretch out on the couch with Dooley and take a nap.
That cleared (some of) the cobwebs and I was back at it. Googled to find a couple of the obscure answers, including 21A: "My Life on Trial" autobiographer (Belli)...I should have known that. That gave me enough to guess 12D: Either of two father-and-son Dodgers owners (O'Malley).
I also ventured a guess for 36A: 2001 Microsoft debut (Windows XP). Once they stopped using the year, I don't remember when new versions came out. I haven't tried Vista...I'm resisting the urge to buy a laptop because I don't want to learn a new operating system just yet.
Google gave me 34A: 1966 album that's #2 on Rolling Stone's all-time greatest albums list (Pet Sounds) by the Beach Boys...I knew that #1 was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band...rightfully so. Also 55A: Cager Kukoc (Toni), 6D: Comic Kevin (Nealon), 24D: "Doctor Faustus" novelist (Mann) and 49D: Composer Boccherini (Luigi).
That's probably when things started to flow. When all was said and done, I loved all of the stacks. In the northwest, 1A: Second African-American in the Baseball Hall of Fame (Campanella), 15A: Some planets may be seen with it (unaided eye)...I couldn't think of another way to phrase naked eye for the longest time, 17A: Simon Legree (taskmaster). In the southeast, along with family name, 59A: Lexicographic enlighteners (usage notes) and 61A: It's no longer working (retirement)...clever clue.
Favorites in the down stacks:
2D: Cheaters, to teachers (anagram). I can't believe I didn't see this. I love anagrams, but I was trying to think what a teacher would think of a cheater...something along the lines of lowlife.
8D: Option for DVD viewing (letter box format). I don't know if that's two or three words...not familiar with that option. I put in the DVD and press play. If someone has changed a setting and that won't work, I read a book instead.
13D: Silhouette (outline). I love the word silhouette...the combination of the letters is just the best.
36D: Conversation piece? (wire tap).
37D: Early screenwriter Bernstein (Isadore). This was another good guess that panned out, based on the few letters that I had in place.
40D: How some people die (testate). Remember this word...it's shown up in the puzzle several times lately. It means that you had a will. If you didn't, you died intestate.
41D: Durable athletes (ironmen). About fifteen years ago, our gym did an Ironman Triathlon...The Long Way. We had a month to do the biking, swimming and running. It was a good way to get the athletically-impaired members active...for those of us who concentrated on one area (running, in my case), it promoted cross-training.
47D: It's worth 8 points in Scrabble (J tile). My very favorite answer in the whole puzzle.
There was so much more that I won't get to cover, but I've got to get going on other things. Today's a busy day...appearing at 21D [When there are lots of errands to run, say].
Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.