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Title: Ring around a black square, a pocketful of why.

This puzzle should garner much commentary and controversy. Those who have been reading my puzzle write-ups for many years know that I enjoy a visual theme as much as a witty one. Today's challenge has only on complete theme fill, the central grid-spanning 36A. Acknowledgment of success--four are hidden in this puzzle, each adjacent to a black square: ROUND OF APPLAUSE (15) the grid shows this creation better than words.



The great beauty of the final effort is the progression of the word
CLAP. It goes west, north, east then south. The next is north, east, south then west, and so on. Around as a circle. The rest of the puzzle is loaded with fun fill. CHIRPILY, HOTPRESS, AER LINGUS,  EMILE ZOLA.  EVERY TIME. GREY GOOSE, LIVE RADIO,  PUNCHLINE,  SOFT COLOR and  WATER LEAK with those highlighted in green making their LAT debut. MC REN also makes its major puzzle debut.

Joe has become an end of the week regular with TTP and HG each having blogged multiple JD efforts. I anxiously await your comments.

Across:

1. Nice with?: AVEC. The classic French city misdirection.

5. "The Empire Strikes Back" ice planet: HOTH. Vader employed bad STRATEGY.

9. Big bucks: STAGS. Not money but deer.

14. It's mostly talk: LIVE RADIO. A fun clue.

16. __ board: EMERY. A boring fill?

17. "Les Rougon-Macquart" author: EMILE ZOLA. This is the most incredible WORK. imdb.

18. N.W.A member portrayed by Aldis Hodge in "Straight Outta Compton": MC REN. The cast of historical MOVIE.

19. Upper bod muscle: PECtoral. Abbreviation - abbreviation.

20. Drainage system component: AIR TRAP. LINK. Not being handy I leave you all to the picture. But you might need it if you develop a 57A. Drip, perhaps: WATER LEAK.

22. Caustic solution: LYE. I will not lie about it.

23. Calendering machine for glossing paper: HOT PRESS. I point only to the dictionary definition of hot-press (Entry 1 of 3)
1: a calendering machine in which paper or cloth is glossed by being pressed between glazed boards and hot metal plates. I do not know what a calendering machine is.

25. Longtime sportscaster Sager: CRAIG. A much-admired sports reporter whose death revealed a family CRISIS.

27. Cash closing?: IER. Cashier- clever.

28. Chafing dish heaters: STERNOS.

30. "Your Unfiltered View of Government" sloganeer: CSPAN. Who knew?

33. Jesus in the outfield: ALOU. The youngest of the three brothers.

35. Entertainment awards acronym: EGOT.
Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony.

39. "What __ one comes?": IF NO. You will have many leftovers.

40. Cutters: SAWS.

41. "Ready?" response: I'M SET. Not from me.

42. Michigan/Ontario border river: ST. CLAIR. Saint Clair River, outlet for Lake Huron, forming part of the boundary between Michigan, U.S. (west), and Ontario, Can. (east). Flowing southward into Lake Saint Clair, with a fall of 5.7 feet (1.7 m) in 39 miles (63 km), the river discharges through a silty, seven-mouth delta, with the South Channel (27-foot [8-metre] minimum depth) used for deep-drafted vessels. The St. Clair delta is the world’s largest delta that enters a freshwater lake. Britannica.

44. Kellogg School deg.: MBAMaster Of Business Administration.

45. Go after: CHASE.

46. In a cheerful way: CHIRPILY. "A new blog! (she tweeted chirpily)."

51. Abbr. that debuted in OED in 2011: LOL.

52. Kind of share: PRO-RATA.

54. MDX ÷ X: CLI.

55. "Three inches is such a wretched height to be" speaker: ALICE. Poor child, she did not understand what it was like to be a caterpillar.

59. World's fastest hedgehog: SONIC.

60. Always: EVERY TIME.

61. Boxer's reward: TREAT. The puppy, not pugilist.

62. 1987 Costner role: NESS.

63. ORD postings: ETAS. ORD- Chicago O'Hare.

Down:

1. Beth preceder: ALEPH. Not any longer, the popular transliteration of the Hebrew alphabet has the second letter as "bet."

2. YouTube alternative: VIMEO. This SITE.

3. Give the boot: EVICT. I think more of firing but it did not fit.

4. Toon collectible: CEL.

5. Less clear: HAZIER. Many CHOICES.

6. Olfactory triggers: ODORS.

7. Leans: TILTS.

8. Winter covering: HOAR. Rimes with boar.

9. Musical "throughout": SEMPRE. Italian, from the Latin SEMPER. Fidelis.

10. HBO competitor: TMC. Not really.

11. Carrier with a shamrock logo: AER LINGUS.


Perhaps better with a glass of...


12. Vodka brand: GREY GOOSE.

13. "Auld Lang __": SYNE. It seems a bit out of context.

15. Hit in the back: REAR END.

21. Stop working: ACT UP. This also is a very extreme example of not working unless you are talking about a machine.

24. Self-playing instrument: PIANOLA. The pianola (pronounce: "pee-ah-NO-la"), also called the player piano, is a piano that has a pneumatic mechanism so that it can play by itself. The air for this system came from a pump operated by the player's feet, and in some later models, an electric pump. When I was first married we bought a player piano and both of my sons learned to play as babies with the help of the rolls.

26. TripAdvisor offering: AREA MAP.

28. Illegal payments: SOPS. One definition is something given to pacify or quiet, or as a bribe: The political boss gave him some cash as a sop.

29. "Do not remove" mark: STET.

30. Football Hall of Famer Carter: CRIS.

31. Subdued shade: SOFT COLOR.

32. Funny part: PUNCHLINE. Do you remember?

33. A long way off: AFAR.

34. Common practice: LAW. So nobody gets good enough to stop practicing.

37. Rattan alternative: OSIER. Definition, any of various willows, as the red osier, having tough, flexible twigs or branches that are used for wickerwork.

38. Congress has a big one: LIBRARY.

43. Viewpoint: ASPECT.

44. Ceremonial headdresses: MITERS. This is a tall headdress worn by bishops and senior abbots as a symbol of office, tapering to a point at the front and back with a deep cleft between.

46. Covet: CRAVE. Thou shall not crave thy neighbor's wife?

47. Can't tolerate: HATES. Hate is more.

48. Nail down the victory: ICE IT.

49. South American carrier: LLAMA.

50. "Uh-oh!": YIKES.

51. Endure: LAST.

53. __ Lars, who raised Luke Skywalker: OWEN.
Owen Lars

56. "Homeland" org.: CIA. Not true, much of the nation's homeland security activity remains outside of DHS; for example, the FBI and CIA are not part of the Department.

58. 4G __: mobile device standard: LTE. LTE is an abbreviation for Long Term Evolution. LTE is a 4G wireless communications standard developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) that's designed to provide up to 10x the speeds of 3G networks for mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, netbooks, notebooks, and wireless hotspots.

He may not be a DiMaggio, but Joe D. is on a hitting streak here at the Corner. I thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle and writing it up for your enlightenment and comments. Be careful, be safe. Lemonade out.