Total blocks: 30
Total words: 70
This grid looks pretty to me. So open at four different corners, with those stacks of 7-letter words. I wonder what is the first word the constructor filled in for his grid. My guess is HEM AND HAW (21D: Procrastinate). But are they really interchangable?
I don't like the clue for LIT (10D: Lang. course). I think abbreviation should only be used when no other options are available. So many ways to clue LIT. "Set afire" is boring but works nicely in this grid. I just learned the other day that LIT is also a slang for "Intoxicated". Maybe you can tell me how you would clue LIT. I really enjoyed the non-tea LIPTON discussion the other day.
Had to google. Without a theme as my sherpa, I was daunted and lost. Did not know any of the two poets' name which intersects each other. Wanted Jennifer (Lopez) for 39D: One of Mark Antony's wives (OCTAVIA), confusing Marc Anthony with Mark Anthony. Anyway, Mark Anthony has five wives: Fadia, Antonia, Fulvia, OCTAVIA and Cleopatra. Looks like he liked women with a-ending names.
1A: Silent signal: GESTURE. Most of the people talk when they GESTURE.
8A: Mayflower passenger: PILGRIM. Vaguely remember there was a baby born EN ROUTE (2D: Along the way) to Plymouth.
15A: Brightest star in Scorpius: ANTARES. Literally rival of ARES (Mars for the Romans) due to the "similarity of its reddish hue to the appearance of the planet Mars". Interesting root. I have never heard of this red supergiant star before.
17A: Vaccaro and Lee: BRENDAS. BRENDA Vaccaro is an actress. BRENDA LEE is a singer. Neither was a familiar name to me.
20A: Ogden resident: UTAHAN. I used to imagine Poet Ogden Nash was born in Ogden, Utah. He was actually born in Rye, New York.
22A: Ancient ointment: NARD. Ah, I did remember this story. Just forgot who was the girl who washed Jesus' feet with NARD. Another Mary.
26A: Latvian chess master: TAL. The 1960-61 world chess champ. Wikipedia says Mikhail TAL is also called "The Magician from Riga".
32A: Group of seven: SEPTET. Sometimes the answer is HEPTAD.
36A: City near San Diego: OCEANSIDE. Here is the map. Easy guess. I did not know there is a city named OCEANSIDE, not to mention its exact location.
38A: Social Security pioneer: TOWNSEND (Francis). Another guess. Here is a picture of him giving a speech about his plan during 1939 New York World's Fair. I wonder what inspired him to think of this grand idea. What a mess we are facing today.
55A: "Animal Farm" author: ORWELL. See the book cover. We get the phrase "Big Brother" and "Orwellian" from his book "Nineteen Eighty-Four".
63A: Period of peace: DETENTE. I was thinking of Pax Romana. To me, DETENTE implies a "relaxing of tension" during JFK's cold war era.
64A: Poet Siegfried: SASSOON. This is Clear Ayes's summary of him: "SASSOON was an early 20th century poet, who was a decorated officer in WWI. He was nicknamed "Mad Jack" by his men for his near-suicidal exploits. He eventually became a vocal anti-war activist. He is memorialized in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner. The inscription reads, "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity." I completely forgot his name. Had to google. SASSOON is "joy" in Hebrew.
65A: Loud speaker: STENTOR. He was a herald of the Greek forces during the Trojan War. And his voice was "as powerful as fifty voices of other men", according to Homer. I have never hear of this guy before. My answer was STENTER, as I wrongly guessed ERNESTE instead of ERNESTO for 43D: Che Guevara's first name.
1D: Jabbers: GABBLES. A gaggle of Geese GABBLE.
5D: Pakistani tongue: URDU. Dictionary says URDU is "essentially identical to Hindi in its spoken form but in its literary form heavily influenced by Persian and Arabic and written in an Arabic alphabet". It's one of the official languages in India too.
6D: "Giant" ranch: REATA. Learned from doing crossword. Have never seen "Giant".
8D: Umbrella cousins: PARASOLS. Here is Monet's Lady with a Parasol (facing right) once again.
12D: Drumming sound: RAT-A-TAT. Like the drum-banging at Oakland A's ballpark? So annoying!
24D: Climber's spikes: PITONS. This guy is pounding on a PITON. Rock climbing looks very dangerous.
37D: Ancient Greek poet: ANACREON. I forgot. It appeared in our puzzle last Nov. Here is what I wrote last time: "Wikipedia says he is a "lyrical poet" and notable for his "drinking songs and hymns". And his songs often celebrated "women, wine, and entertaining, and today can be considered eroticism". Very interesting information: Francis Scott Key modified Stafford Smith's melody of "To ANACREON in Heaven" for "The Star-Spangled Banner".
38D: Parts of rocker arms: TAPPETS. Here is a diagram. Does not look like "Parts of rocker arms". Whatever. Too technical for me to understand.
54D: "Boola Boola" singers: ELIS. Oh, I did not know "Boola Boola" is Yale's fight song. What's Harvard's then?
56D: Past due: LATE. I really liked "Past Due?" clue for TRE. Very clever. Uno, due, TRE.
61D: X: TEN. The wild receiver for Arizona Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald is from Minnesota. I guess we will all root for the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.