Dave Mackey's Wednesday puzzle has a bit of a wicked twist...then again, that may be his usual style. I had a lot of blanks staring back at me for some time, and I was beginning to think I was dealing with a rebus.
There were only a few answers that were Google-able, so it boiled down to trial and error...heavy on the latter.
The long answers were all good...and I just this minute saw their connection.
17A: Solitaire card game (Rouge Et Noir)...if I ever played it, I called it something else.
24A: Pugs in gyms, at times (shadow boxers).
37A: Good thing to build on (solid foundation).
50A: Initially (at first blush).
59A: Cunard fleet member (luxury liner).
I'm struggling to stay awake...actually dozed on and off while I was solving. That does take away from the enjoyment level somewhat...but the end result in this case was more than worth it.
Favorite answers include 1A: Birdbrain (nitwit), 15A: Norse epic (Edda), 28A: Forcefully, in music (furioso), 44A: Gentle opening? (soft G)...one of just a few gimmes, 53A: 1983 Keaton comedy (Mr. Mom)...I had the wrong Keaton in mind, 6D: Certain sorority members (Thetas), 7D: Slowly, on a score (lento), 10D: "American Graffiti" extra (carhop), 11D: Item from a registry, perhaps (shower gift), 30D: They show altitude (relief maps), 36D: "A Loss of Roses" playwright (Inge), 41D: Peter of reggae (Tosh), and 49D: "Guys and Dolls" is based on his writing (Runyon).
The connected clues/answers were fairly easy, considering my struggle with much of the puzzle...48A: 52-Down part (bristle) and 52D: Toiletry kit item (brush).
Favorite clues...7A: Of the flock (laic), 45A: Québec's southern neighbors (Etats), 65A: Greasy spoon sign (Eats), 67A: Saucer contents, in brief? (ETs), 1D: "Quo Vadis" role (Nero), 5D: It's never in a neat order (ice)...I'm quite proud of that gimme, 18D: List-starting words (to do), 48D: Astigmatic's view (blur), 41D: Red hair or freckles (trait), 55D: Social workers? (ants), and 63D: Liked leader? (Ike).
Although he's a favorite from way back, I didn't get 32A: 1972 Bill Withers hit (Use Me) until I had some crosses. I wanted it to be "Lean on Me," which is one of the main reasons I thought we had a rebus.
It's late and I'm 56D: Ready for the sack (beat). Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.