56 A. End of a close race ... and what the last part of the answers to starred clues can literally be: PHOTO FINISH. This is a race that is so close that a picture is taken along the finish line to see who gets a nose across it first. In this puzzle, the last part part of each theme entry can be paired with the word PHOTO to get a specific meaning. Of course, a PHOTO FINISH can also be matte or glossy, but that's not what we are talking about.
17 A. *Sports bookie's figure: POINT SPREAD. The expected margin of victory - you can place a wager that a given team will win or lose a game by more than that amount. A PHOTO SPREAD is a group of pictures on a topic that are printed together in a magazine.
37 A. *R&D setting: TEST LAB. This is where the detail work is done to provide analytical data on the quality and performance properties of a product or its associated precesses. A PHOTO LAB is, or was, a place where traditional photographic negatives were developed to make the real image. Almost all photography is digital now, so I'm not sure how many PHOTO LABS exist these days.
11 D. *Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde," e.g.: DOUBLE ALBUM. This is group of two LP or CD musical recordings packaged as a unit. Digital streaming is phasing these things out as well. A PHOTO ALBUM is a book in which one can place cherished pictures for posterity.
25 D. *Marksmanship match: TURKEY SHOOT. A SHOOTING proficiency contest using moving targets, with a TURKEY as the winner's prize. A PHOTO SHOOT is an appointment with a photographer in a studio or on location to take a series of photographs.
Hi Gang - not particularly photogenic JazzBumpa here to zoom in on the fine [focal] points of this puzzle. Full disclosure: I am NOT a camera.
Nevertheless, here I am at the far right of a big trombone and tuba extravaganza at First Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, MI this past Sunday. Should have vids in a week or so.
Photo credit: my Lovely Wife
1. Keebler cracker: ZESTA. Wheat based saltines.
6. Shoots the breeze: CHATS. Has a casual conversation.
11. E, in Morse code: DOT. Letters are represented by sequences of dots and/or dashes. Here, the sequence is one.
14. Parts of plots: ACRES. Land, not story features.
15. Kama __: SUTRA. More than just a sex manual, this ancient Hindu text is a guide to virtuous and gracious living, regarding love, family life and other pleasurable aspects of human existence.
16. Bruin great Bobby: ORR. A famous moment.
20. Caspian Sea feeder: URAL. This river originates in the Ural Mountains and flows through Russia and Kazahkstan in Eurasia.
21. Where work may pile up: IN BOX. Mine was a compost heap.
23. Criticized unfairly, in slang: HATED ON.
27. Stand in a studio: EASEL. Support for a picture.
29. Get away from: ELUDE. Or evade.
30. Inoffensive: HARMLESS.
34. Suffix with billion: AIRE. A person with more money than she needs.
35. Fashionable way to arrive?: LATE. I guess appearing on time is gauche.
36. "What a pity": TSK. Tongue clucking.
40. Meadow: LEA. An open area of grassy or arable land.
41. Four-stringed instruments, typically: UKES.
43. Weighty volume: TOME. A large, scholarly book.
44. Buck the system: REBEL. Go your own way.
46. PassÈ street corner convenience: PAY PHONE. Among other passe things in this puzzle.
48. As __: generally: A RULE. Most of the time.
49. Location: SCENE. A particular place
50. Online player, briefly: P C GAMER. Played mostly on phones, these days, I imagine.
52. Taj __: MAHAL. A marble mausoleum built in 1642 by the Mogul emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal. When I was young, I thought it was the Tajma Hall. Made sense to me at the time.
54. Foundry waste: SLAG. Stony by-product material from the smelting of ore.
55. Good Grips gadget brand: OXO. Ergonomically designed kitchen utensils.
63. "Don't Bring Me Down" rock gp.: ELO.
64. Singer Cyrus: MILEY. Not a fan.
65. Finnish tech giant: NOKIA. Telecommunications, information technology and consumer electronics company.
66. Hanoi holiday: TET. Vietnamese New Year - the most important celebration in their culture.
67. Green vehicles, for short: E-CARS. E, for eco-friendly.
68. Belgian treaty city: GHENT. This peace treaty formalized the end of the War of 1812. Ghent is the largest city in the East Flanders province of Belgium.
1. Cook quickly: ZAP. Heat in a microwave oven.
2. Prefix with logical: ECO-. Concerning the interactions of living organisms among each other and with their surroundings.
3. __ Lanka: SRI. An island nation south-east of india.
4. Top songs set: TEN. The 10 most popular songs in the country at any given time, based on downloaded and streamed songs from music retailers.
5. Stellar scholar: A STUDENT. Student who gets all A's on a report card.
6. D.C. network: C-SPAN. Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network, created in 1979 by the cable television industry as a public service.
7. Sling: HURL. Throw forcefully.
8. Gobbled up: ATE. Devoured.
9. Carol syllable: TRA.
10. Extreme cruelty: SADISM. More than that - it is deriving pleasure from inflicting pain and suffering on someone.
12. Rice-shaped pasta: ORZO.
13. Froot Loops shelfmate: TRIX. Sugary cereals marketed at children.
18. B'way sellout sign: SRO. Standing Room Only.
22. Jodie Foster title role: NELL. Movie about a girl raised in a mountain cabin who has no contact with the outside world, and devised her own language.
23. Intensify: HEAT UP.
24. "Seward's Folly" purchase: ALASKA. On March 30, 1867, U. S. Secretary of State William Seward signed a treaty with czarist Russia for the purpose of purchasing Alaska for 2 cents per acre. There was little enthusiasm in the U. S. Senate, where the treaty was ratified on April 9, by a single vote. Settlement in the territory was sparse until gold was discovered in 1898.
26. Tokyo, long ago: EDO.
27. "Copperhead Road" singer Steve: EARLE.
28. Nevada's __ 51: AREA. A highly classified remote area located 83 miles north-northwest of Las Vegas, and the subject of popular conspiracy theories.
30. Blackjack request: HIT ME. Request for another card.
31. Remington played by Brosnan: STEELE. Another TV series I never watched. You can read about it here.
32. Driveway coating: SEALER. Petroleum based material intended to protect a black-top surface.
34. In unison: AS ONE. Though many, we are single-minded.
38. English school since 1440: ETON. An English independent boarding school for boys, which pops up frequently in cross words. If the clue asks for an English School and the space provided holds four letters, fill in ETON and move on.
39. Big talk: BRAGGING. To speak in a pompous or self-aggrandizing way about one's own accomplishments.
42. Animal welfare gp.: SPCA. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
45. Pitching stat: ERA. Earned Run Average, the mean of the number of earned runs per nine innings thrown by a given pitcher or pitching staff. An Earned Run is one fully resulting from the efforts and accomplishments of the offensive team; that is, one that does not result from any kind of error or mistake on the part of the defense. WHIP [walks and hits per inning pitched] is a more modern stat that is considered to be more meaningful.
47. "I need a hand": HELP ME. Request for assistance.
50. Tricks: PLOYS. Devious maneuvers.
51. Half-__: coffee compromise: CAF. Coffee with half the caffeine content. I used to drink that before I went full decaf.
52. Bubbly brand: MOET. Producer and distributor of champagnes.
53. Wheel connector: AXLE. A rod or spindle passing through the center of a wheel.
54. Ending for young and old alike?: STER. Suffix denoting a person engaged n or associated with a particular activity or thing, frex.: gangster.
57. Hyphenated Minute Maid brand: HI-C. Marketed since 1948. The original flavor was orange. The name reflects the high content of vitamin C. No idea if that is still accurate 70 years later.
58. Schnozz extension?: -OLA. A suffix of no specific meaning. in this case the effect is mildly humerous.
59. Japanese drama: NOH. A highly stylized form of classical theater involving, masks, costumes and various props.
60. '50s prez: IKE. Dwight David Eisenhower.
61. Sermon subject: SIN. An immoral act breaking divine law.
62. Boater or bowler: HAT. Fitting, I think, that we top this off with a couple pretty pictures. So here I will put a lid on it.