Tomorrow is Don's birthday. I won't tell you how old he is, but he could start collecting Social Security benefits. We'll go out to dinner, have a glass of wine, he'll open his present (can't tell you what I got him...he reads this from time to time), have another glass of wine... I'm not sure when (or if) I'll get the puzzle solved and blogged. If anyone wants to take a shot at it, let me know.
I don't know why the theme of this PUZZLE was such a MYSTERY to me. It's an ENIGMA why I had such a PROBLEM with it.
The four theme answers:
20A: 1999 Russell Crowe movie (Mystery Alaska). Never heard of it.
32A: Parent's handful (problem child). I didn't have one of those...I had two. Just kidding! I did have a problem with this answer, though. I wanted the first word to end in ED, and troubled wouldn't fit. Not knowing the cross at 23D: Domino features (pips) didn't help.
41A: Nickname for the National Security Agency (Puzzle Palace). I didn't have a clue about this one. Had the first two letters from 28D: Cookbook amt. (tbsp) and 42D: E pluribus __ (unum)...then guessed 43D: Fraternity founded in 1847 at New York University (Zeta Psi). That gave me the first word, but I needed crosses to get the second.
55A: W.W. II encryption device (Enigma Machine). Again...no clue. I was able to get the first few letters from crosses...46D: Assuming, hypothetically (if ever), 47D: 1975 "Thrilla" city (Manila), 48D: Melodic passages (ariosi) and 52D: Looked libidinously (ogled). After that, it was easy enough to get the first word. Again, though, I needed crosses to complete the theme answer.
The best thing about this puzzle...plenty of Scrabbly letters.
K crossing a theme answer at 12D: Two-or three-pointer (basket).
X at 61A: In a pique (vexed), crossing at 38D: End of the road, possibly (last exit).
Z appearing twice in one theme answer, also crossing with 33D: Baseball's Johnny, known as the Big Cat (Mize)...and a clever clue at 15A: A lot of pizzazz? (zees), crossing at 6D: San Diego State player (Aztec).
While I didn't do too well with the theme answers, I was able to nail some of the non-theme fill, some of which was very well executed.
10A: Pop group whose music was the basis of a hit 2001 Broadway musical (Abba). I don't know how I knew this, but I did. I must have read it somewhere and stored it in the back of my brain. I'm amazed that I was able to bring it to the forefront.
14A: Hut material (adobe).
26A: Scorecard listing (roster). Does this count as knowing a sports clue?
27A: Fielder's cry (I got it). I love when things like this are gimmes.
29A: Potter's need (soil). Took me some time to realize they meant THAT kind of potter. I wanted slip or clay.
31A: "The racer's edge" (STP). I remember those commercials from my childhood.
51A: "Groovy!" (far out). And I remember this from my teen years.
65A: Getz of jazz (Stan).
9D: Last king of the united Sweden and Norway (Oscar II). I knew with that many letters it would end in a Roman numeral...but my first guess was Olaf VII. It wasn't a bad guess...just very wrong.
13D: Black key (A sharp). I just this minute got it. I wasn't parsing it correctly...couldn't make sense of AS HARP or ASH ARP. It's late...I'm tired...take your pick.
29D: Dress down (scold). I was thinking what you'd do on casual Friday.
30D: "Die Frau __ Schatten" (Strauss opera) (Ohne). Wouldn't have gotten it without the crosses.
34D: Mustachioed Surrealist (Dali). A good guess.
45D: Stork's bundle (arrival).
57D: Asia's __ Sea (Aral). I don't know why I always confuse Aral and Ural. I think Ural are mountains. There must be some way to remember this.
58D: Campbell of "Three to Tango" (Neve). I didn't see the movie, but I like her name, so I always remember it.
I also liked the multiword answers at 69A: Reveal one's feelings (let on), 3D: Campus quarters (dorm room) and 5D: Shove off (set sail).
That's it for tonight. Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.