The periodic table symbol for Gold (AU) is inserted in existing phrases to create new and entertaining fill. Two phrases have the AU added to the final word, at the end thereof; one added to the end of the fist word; and the final before a one letter phrase. Mr. Buchbinder, who is 28 and a teacher had his debut in the NYT August 19, 2014. There are two gridspanning theme answers. As marti pointed out yesterday, the big challenge for a theme is establishing symmetrical theme fill. 15, 10, 10, 15 is a common format; here we have the central reveal also at 9 letters, giving 59 in the theme. As a result we have many 3 and 4 letter words, but there are also some nice 7 letter fill to make this a Friday, such as BIG DATA, CURTAIN, DRIVE-IN, FEATURE, HAN SOLO, IT’S TRUE, NEUTRAL, OBJECTS, ONE EACH, SYNERGY, TRAPEZE, TRUCKER . Welcome to our world Sam.
16A. Striking painting of paddles, net and ball? : PING PONG TABLEAU (15). Ping pong table and crowd the plate are both sports references. I like the visual of the painting, but this fill does not really change the meaning of the phrase in the same way the two of the other themers change their phrases.
23A. Extraordinary northern bird? : SPECIAL AUK (10). We go from a cereal to one of our favorite crossword birds.
46A. Alaskan insects? : JUNEAU BUGS (10). June bugs might emigrate to Alaska and be Juneau bugs, I guess.
55A. Overdevelop a high plain? : CROWD THE PLATEAU (15). A baseball reference really transformed.
34A. Mythological figure who touched 16-, 23-, 46- and 55-Across? : KING MIDAS (9). The poor man could not eat or fool around.
1. "Mad Men" productions : ADS. Madison Avenue Admen.
4. Bark elicitor : SPEAK. I love the simplicity of this clue.
9. Lax : SOFT. The modern parent?
13. Force (open) : PRY.
14. Close-fitting dress : SHEATH.
15. Powerful dept.? : ENERgy. Pun one.
19. Uber : VERY. German. Our first clecho 48D. Uber : ULTRA.
20. Facebook button : LIKE. How many of the Corner use FB? A show of hands?
21. Truncation abbr. : ETCetera.
22. Austin of "Knot's Landing" : TERI. She had lots of HAIR.
26. Statistician's challenge : BIG DATA. Computers have created an exponential increase in data.
29. "__ thoughts?" : ANY.
30. Reasonable : SANE.
32. Purim heroine : ESTHER. A wonderful story. LINK.
36. Available : ON HAND.
39. Anthony Hopkins' "Thor" role : ODIN.
40. Channel for old films : TCM. Turner Classic Movies.
43. Noodle : BEAN. Interestingly I can find no references to why bean means brain or head. I just know in baseball throwing at the head is a "bean ball" and people are rewarded for "using the old bean."
44. "I'm not kidding!" : IT'S TRUE.
51. Chief Justice Warren : EARL. Appointed by Dwight Eisenhower, he led a court which drastically reformed the interpretation of individual rights.
52. Subjects of some conspiracy theories : ETS. Extra Terrestrials.
53. Specks on cartes : ILES. Carte is French for "MAP." Along with 9D. Sprinkling on French fries? : SEL, (which means salt) and all the EAU words, I might guess Sam likes French.
54. Enthralled : RAPT. Do I have your attention yet? I want to warn you, I have a...
60. It may be cautionary : TALE.
61. "I shall be late!" speaker of fiction : RABBIT. WATCH? (2:00). Oh how punny?
62. Letter director : ZIP. Code.
63. Narrow opening : SLOT. Started with SLIT, picturing some of Splynter's favorite dresses.
64. Indo-__ languages : ARYAN.
65. Nixon has two : ENS. Not ears, or eyes, but the letters. Misdirection three.
1. Angry Birds, e.g. : APP. I know this but have never actually seen it.
2. "Happy Days" setting : DRIVE IN.
3. Cooperative action : SYNERGY.
4. "Dexter" airer, for short : SHOwtime. Anyone watch the entire series?
5. Write : PEN.
6. Scout rank : EAGLE.
7. Top story : ATTIC. At 11? Nope of my house, misdirection 4. So we get the clecho two 11D. Top story : FEATURE.
8. Uniform material : KHAKI. Urdu?
10. Free sample limitation : ONE EACH. Do you think you can pay for your Sam's Club, COSTCO etc membership just from eating the free samples?
12. Cab driver? : TRUCKER. At least the answer was not TAXIER.
14. One of a pair of Mad adversaries : SPY.
17. Off the __ : GRID.
18. Arthur of "The Golden Girls" : BEA.
22. Sched. uncertainty : TBA. To Be Announced.
23. Witness __ : STAND. In the US we sit so it all sounds silly.
24. Sharp feeling : PANG.
25. Rowing beneficiaries, for short : LATS. Latissimi dorsi. Side back.
27. Z-zebra link : AS IN. I doubt that will be Sue Grafton's choice.
31. Dashboard Confessional's genre : EMO. No idea. Still rock and roll.
32. Changes, in a way : EDITS.
33. Without : SANS. A French word now accepted in English.
34. Rosebud's owner : KANE. Orson Welles' sled.
35. "Cool, man!" : I DIG. Maynard G. Krebs.
36. Things : OBJECTS.
37. __ color : NEUTRAL.
38. Fictional pilot with the iconic line, "Laugh it up, fuzzball" : HAN SOLO. I told you last week Star Wars references were coming.
40. Circus staple : TRAPEZE. With the greatest of ease....
41. Sun block : CURTAIN. Meh.
42. "The Producers" screenwriter Brooks : MEL. Too many wonderful scenes and movies to link.
45. Milk dispenser : TEAT. We had the the bird TIT, the idiot BOOB and now we actually have a milk dispenser. Udderly amazing.
47. Help : AID.
49. "The View" alum Joy : BEHAR. The word BEHAR is Hebrew for on the mount.
50. Milk carton words : USE BY.
54. Snitch : RAT.
56. 18th Amendment opposer : WET. This was the Prohibition Amendment. Our HISTORY.
57. Cops' org. : PBA. Patrolmen's or Police Benevolent Association. Unions for the police.
58. Harvard grad Jeremy who's now a Laker : LIN. Made a brief splash with the Knicks, signed to big money by the Rockets, and now exiled to the Lakers.
59. Rises : UPS . Man, ending on a downer.
Well another Friday in the record books, I had fun. I hope you all did and for those who do not wake up to 70 degrees and sunny, stay warm. Lemonade out.