Theme: Letters at the start of the theme answers must be pronounced as a plural group to make sense.
- 17A: GGG LOUISE – “Holy smokes!” [JEEZ LOUISE]
- 30A: III WIDE SHUT – Controversial release of 1999 [EYES WIDE SHUT]
- 46A: YYY CRACKING – Card activity [WISECRACKING]
- 61A: CCC THE DAY – YOLO, more classically [SEIZE THE DAY]
This one was a toughie. I had a few bits and pieces of the grid for ages, but just couldn’t get a handle on any of the longer answers. One of my weak spots in crosswords is minimalist clues that can be parsed in several ways, and all of the themers are of that type. Except CCC THE DAY, which I immediately wanted CARPE DIEM for. And then when that didn’t work and I fought my way through the corner, I saw -EDAY and figured that there was a rebus hiding three extra letters in SEIZE THE DAY.
Finally cracked it when I realized that 37A: “St John Passion” composer, for short was J.S. BACH (devious consonant string). That gave me THIS IS BIG (9D: “I’ve got huge news”), which let me see CIA AGENT (44D: Vince Flynn’s protagonist Mitch Rapp, for one — never read the books), which finally made me drop SIGMA in favour of THETA (34D: With 5-Down, long-running engineering fraternity). And then I recognized the ending of EYES WIDE SHUT and it all snapped into place. I grokked the theme immediately at that point, and then it was just a matter of working the remaining segments.
A couple of fun clues this week — 43D: They might be dramatic for IRONIES, and 22D: Unflattering denim wear, say for DAD JEANS. I also like 56A: Moon that went “out of orbit” in 1978 for KEITH, but it took me forever. Look, I was born in 1985 — I don’t know who was in the Who. I do like some of their songs, though.
Once I remembered AGA KHAN (45D: Muslim honorific), I was pretty much done except for the horrific crossing of SEIJI Ozawa and JAMI Gertz. Had to run the alphabet on that one. Bit of a lame way to finish, but otherwise I really enjoyed this one.