Joe Krozel has a solid theme with his Thursday puzzle...three 15-letter answers, wrapped up and revealed at 49D: Word defined by 20-, 36- and 51-Across (crane). All three are clued identically...[See 49-Down]...and the answers are:
20A: Stretch one's neck
36A: Novelist Stephen
51A: Large wading bird
There was nothing forced about the nontheme fill, which included some good long answers. Among my favorites:
18A: Federally guaranteed security (Ginnie Mae).
22A: Showy shrubs (azaleas). They're definitely one of the most beautiful shrubs, but I haven't been able to grow one since I left Florida. In our gardening zone, they're pretty much confined to pots...and that's just not how they're intended to grow.
56A: Private chats (one-on-ones). I'm sure I've never heard it used as a plural before, but it works for me given the overall complexity of the grid.
2D: Faint, in slang (plotz). That's a new one on me.
10D: Engagement agreement (prenup). That took forever to see, even when I had most of the letters in place.
11D: Hard to take? (camera shy). So did this one...I was trying to get something that ended with -ashy.
19D: Wagner princess (Isolde).
21D: Designer for Jackie Kennedy (Cassini). Everything he designed for her worked beautifully. He was a classic designer...she was a classic First Lady.
27D: What "knock knock" may mean (let me in). At first I thought it would have something to do with a joke. I'm sure I'm not alone there.
31D: Celebrated Sigmund Freud patient (Dora). A much better clue than the more current Explorer.
32D: Oscar-winning song from "A Star Is Born" (Evergreen). I absolutely loved that movie and cried hysterically for hours after it ended. I may have told this story before...I stopped at the Chevrolet dealership on my way home, and it was obvious I'd been crying. The salesman brought me some coffee...and I ended up buying my Camaro. Anyway, here's Barbra Streisand singing Evergreen...accompanied by Kris Kristofferson.
37D: Perfect-game pitcher Don (Larsen). I didn't know it, but I had enough letters to guess correctly.
38D: Graph of the equation y = ax2 + bx + c (parabola). I couldn't explain that if my life depended on it...the clue or the answer.
43D: Leave in a hurry, slangily (bug out).
There were a couple of things I didn't know and couldn't have gotten without crosses.
6A: A good breakfast, but a bad supper, according to Francis Bacon (hope). I don't have a clue what he meant by that. If you do, I'm sure there are several of us who'd like to know.
15A: Robert of "The Sopranos" (Iler). Never saw the show.
46A: "Donald's Cousin __" (1939 Disney cartoon) (Gus). Never heard of him, but he fit.
50D: Best and Ferber (Ednas).
52D: Black cuckoos (anis). We have several birds in this puzzle. In addition to crane, this guy is joined by crossword regular erne, appearing at 9D: Marine eagle.
Favorite clues include 25A: Diamond setting (ball park), 40A: It's often played before playing (anthem)...nice tie-in there..., 62A: Unlikely valentine swappers (exes) and 47D: Dukes (fists)...as in, put up yours.
Also wanted to mention 42A: Cary Grant played a male one in 1949 (War Bride)...mainly because I downloaded this picture. I've seen several Cary Grant movies, but that's not one of them.
Well, this was supposed to be a short post, but I guess I got carried away. Now I'll be late getting to bed...must do better tomorrow.
Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.