I think it's time to put Lynn Lempel on the New York Times payroll. Not only is this her second puzzle in a row...it's her third in the last week!
After her tough Sunday puzzle, though, it was kind of nice to nail Monday.
The theme is revealed at 64A: Theory of the universe, or a hint to the starts of 17-Across and 7-, 10-, 35- and 40-Down (Big Bang)...and the five theme answers are:
17A: High hit behind the catcher, say (pop foul).
7D: Prosperous place (boomtown).
10D: Extreme effort at weight loss (crash diet). Have you ever noticed that the first three letters of the word diet are d-i-e. That's why you'll never catch me going on one.
35D: Skilled marksman (crack shot).
40D: Baloney (claptrap).
As always, Lynn's nontheme fill is entertaining...and often out of the ordinary.
13A: Kansas city where Dwight Eisenhower grew up (Abilene). I have no idea why, but this was a gimme.
15A: Symbol of sturdiness (oak tree)...that contrasts nicely with 50D: Symbols of meekness (lambs).
18A: Do surgery (on) (operate).
23A: Ward off (repel).
39A: Spotty (erratic). A favorite word...don't know why.
41A: Tidy savings (nest egg)...what we're trying to build so we can retire at some point. Don has always been self-employed, and I've never worked for a company with a retirement plan that would really provide for retirement. It's always been up to us. It's a good thing one of us is a saver.
47A: Stretchy fabric (Lycra). It feels good on, but it sure doesn't look good on everyone.
49A: Self-assurance (aplomb). That is just one of the best words ever. Period.
67A: Scene at a natural history museum (diorama).
16D: Musical chord (triad). I love playing triads...something about the sounds.
27D: Abductors' demands (ransoms). Not often heard as a plural, but sometimes you just have to do things to make the puzzle work out. I'm okay with that.
32D: Lady and the Tramp, e.g. (dogs). Dooley and Barnabas wanted me to point this out. It's one of their favorite movies.
There were just a couple of things I didn't know but was able to get from crosses.
14D: Twisty-horned antelope (eland). Never heard of these guys, but they're kind of cute.
34D: Air France destination (Orly). Hmm...an airport in Paris. I should make a note of that.
There were several answers that make their way into the puzzle fairly often, including 19A: End of a school Web address (edu), 20A: Salves (balms), 28A: Refused (said no), 38A: Nuptial agreement (I do)...clever clue, 69A: Summer hrs. in D.C. (EDT), 5D: Old auto inits. (REO), 9D: __ out (barely make (eke), 37D: Aviation-related prefix (aero), 45D: Sporting sword (epee)...a word I'd never heard of before I started doing crossword puzzles and 60D: Nurses a drink (sips).
In addition to the theme answers, there were a couple of good multiword answers that I liked...62A: Miss terribly (ache for)...the last time it was pine for, 68A: Observed secretly (spied on) and 3D: Shred (rip up).
Identical cluing at 21D and 29D [Eye part]...lens and iris, respectively.
Like many of you, I've gotten spoiled by two long weekends. I hope I can get myself up and around tomorrow. It was kind of nice having Mondays off.
That's it for today. Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.