Husker Gary here to fill in the blanks on Bill's very clever puzzle. If you knew going in that every themer had the word BLANK in it and that the actual single clue word had to be mentally placed in/over that BLANK, it would have made for a faster solve. It worked that way for me after I got the gimmick. What a hoot!
As you can see in the grid at the right, I have put the Clue word over (rather than in) the BLANK and that generates a familiar phrase.
I thought INCUS and BALATA were mighty meaty words for a Wednesday and I had to research PET and SHIN used in unfamiliar contexts, but learning is an great adjunct to these daily exercises. Opposed to popular opinion, I am trainable.
Now before I BLANK out, lets examine what the theme fills, one layer at a time.
20. NOTHING : BLANK BUT NET - NOTHING fills in for BLANK and we get NOTHING BUT NET which is a baseball phrase shown here in a fun way
11. SPACE : OPEN BLANK -Drop SPACE in the BLANK and you get OPEN SPACE. Tom Lehman took the OPEN SPACE of Nebraska's Sand Hills and built the 35th best public golf course in America.
31. EMPTY : BLANK NEST - EMPTY fills in the BLANK to give us EMPTY NEST. We at least waited two days before we moved the computer desk into her room and to make it an office.
38. Provide missing info ... and what four clues do to their answers : FILL IN THE BLANKS - A round of Mad Libs:
FILL IN THE BLANKS: This was a(n) ADJECTIVE puzzle that gave me ADJECTIVE NOUN. I thought it was ADVERB ADJECTIVE for a Wednesday because the fill was ADVERB ADJECTIVE than usual.
My answers - Wonderful, Great Joy, Particularly Difficult, More Challenging
Now you get to read my ADJECTIVE review/exposition
1. Reduce drastically : SLASH
6. Skyscraper girder : I-BEAM - They just pulled up an I-BEAM for lunch
11. Bobby on the ice : ORR
14. Willowy : LITHE
15. Impudent : NERVY
16. Baltimore Ravens mascot named for an author : POE - Baltimore? Ravens? Makes perfect sense!
17. Attendant who invites Hamlet to duel Laertes : OSRIC - Peter Cushing playing OSRIC to Olivier's Hamlet
18. Blubbers : CRIES
19. Potato part : EYE
22. "Stillmatic" rapper : NAS - His lyrics ain't exactly Gershwin
23. Equinox mo. : SEP - On or about the 21st
24. Secure at the pier : LASH - Bill Murray had to be LASHED to the mast to overcome his fear of sailing in this hilarious film
25. Small bite : NIBBLE
27. Sulky state : PET - There it was, it had to be, but wha...? My research showed it as a shortened form of in a PETulant mood. Sample: Bill is really in a PET today.
28. L.A.'s region : SOCAL - SOuthern CALifornia
29. Jessica of "Fantastic Four" films : ALBA - Let me get this straight. You give her this special power? Really?
32. Waimea Bay island : OAHU
35. First sound of the day, for many : ALARM - Mine is a hungry kitty
41. Author Asimov : ISAAC
42. Ratio phrase : IS TO
43. Boxing stats : TKO'S
44. Explosive experiment : N-TEST - Here's one on Bikini Atoll with some VIP observers miles away
48. "I wanna go too!" : TAKE ME
50. "Psst!" kin : AHEM
52. These, in Nantes : CES - CES croissants sont délicieux
55. Roadside respite spot : INN
59. Word with Iron or Bronze : AGE
60. Enter on a laptop : KEY IN
61. Tropical porch : LANAI - Where I first heard the word
62. Hi-__ image : RES
63. Año Nuevo month : ENERO - El desfile de las rosas es el 1 de ENERO. (Desfile = Parade)
64. Ham it up : EMOTE
65. Cockpit abbr. : ALT
66. Building leveler, to a Brit : RASER - Wait a minute, we're going to RASE that barn that grandpa helped RAISE?
67. Like horses : MANED - Farrah's coiffure was described as a feathered MANE in this picture
1. Neatniks' opposites : SLOBS
2. Stocking thread : LISLE - How many times did I have to see this before I wrote it in right away today?
3. "It's __!": "They tricked us!" : A TRAP - Admiral Ackbar's warning
4. Climb, in a way : SHIN - This ranks right up there with the obscure (to me) usage of PET above. From dictionary.com
5. Badger from the bleachers : HECKLE - I saw an umpire take off all his equipment and throw it down in front of a HECKLER in the bleachers and say, "You do it!" He declined and shut up.
6. Anvil-shaped ear bone : INCUS - Thar she blows in the canal!
7. Ocean bed? : BERTH - It costs extra if you have a porthole or a balcony
8. Burnett of CNN : ERIN
9. ACTIVE NATURALS skin care brand : AVEENO
10. Otherworldly : MYSTICAL
12. Fit for a queen : ROYAL
13. Piece maker? : REESE - Mars Candy rued the day they turned down the tie-in with M&M's because they thought, "Who'd want to see a movie about an alien adopted by a lonely kid." Turns out, millions did. Hershey gladly cashed in with this blockbuster movie.
21. It may be passed : BATON
26. Golf ball material : BALATA - The sap harvested as you see here from these Central/South American trees was formerly widely used for a golf ball covers. Pros could control these balls better but amateurs just kept cutting them.
27. Sense of taste : PALATE
28. Bird feeder food : SUET - Part of our bird buffet
29. John Williams won its 2016 Life Achievement Award: Abbr. : AFI - American Film Institute
30. Fleur-de-__ : LIS
33. Busy, busy, busy : AT IT - After giving an assignment, I usually said, "Now, get AT IT!"
34. Dept. that oversees the FDA : HHS
36. "Citizen Kane" studio : RKO - William Randolph Hearst was so incensed at this movie that used him as a model, he leaned on Hollywood to make sure this "greatest American movie ever made" lost the Oscar to How Green Was My Valley in 1942
37. Ed.'s backlog : MSS - An Acquisition Editor with a backlog of unsolicited ManuScriptS
39. Fridge feature that needs water : ICE MAKER - Didn't you just hate wrestling with ice trays?
40. Bergman's "Gaslight" co-star : BOYER
45. Title Tejano singer in a 1997 biopic : SELENA
47. Starbucks' mermaid, e.g. : EMBLEM
48. Sparkly crown : TIARA
49. Broadway backer : ANGEL - The premise for making money in The Producers was Max Bialystock bilking money out of his stable of elderly ANGELS
50. Blazing : AFIRE
51. Roll out the red carpet for : HONOR
52. Pachelbel work : CANON - His CANON (a repeating melody) has graced many a wedding - I paid for two of them
53. Related on mom's side : ENATE
54. Hit the slopes : SKIED - I would hit the slopes hard if I SKIED!
57. Caustic cleaners : LYES
58. Tibetan spiritual adviser : LAMA - Carl (Bill Murray) was a looper (caddy) for the LAMA and admired his golf game in Caddyshack
Now it's time for your ADVERB ADJECTIVE comments: