Theme: J CREW (53D. Clothing chain ... or what the answers to starred clues comprise?) - All theme entries are well-known people with J ? initials.
17A. *U.S. Steel co-founder : J.P. MORGAN
36A. *"Whiplash" Best Supporting Actor : J. K. SIMMONS. Know him as Dr. Skoda on Law & Order.
10D. *"Lost" co-creator : J. J. ABRAMS. So talented.
36D. *Retail chain founder : J. C. PENNEY
Total six J's in this puzzle. This is tricky to design and fill, as I learned from my own J ? puzzle five years ago (the last one is so inconsistent!). Puzzles involved lots of J's, Q's, X'es and Z's are all challenging.
Ed's reveal is perfect and gives a solid rationale for this puzzle. His fill is great too. None of the J's are stretched. All real words.
1. Article : ITEM
5. Die down : EBB
8. Military action toys : G I JOEs. We used to own three GI Joe style Jesse Ventura action dolls.
14. Something frowned upon : NO NO. Tiny dupe with 64. "Almost ready" : NOT YET
15. Graphic introduction? : GEO. Geographic.
16. Harm : INJURE
19. Roofer's supply : SLATES
20. "August: __ County": Meryl Streep film : OSAGE
21. Spinal column part : VERTEBRA. I used to confuse this word with VERBENA.
23. Words on a candy heart : KISS ME. Not BE MINE.
25. "CHiPs" co-star Erik : ESTRADA
27. Newspaper VIPs : EDs (Editors)
28. Crèche figure : LAMB
31. Like Parmesan cheese : AGED
32. "Didn't I tell you?" : SEE
33. Peas, for shooters : AMMO
34. Racetrack equipment : TIMERS
38. Wealthy campaign donor : FAT CAT. Thought of Bundler.
41. Picture framing materials : MATS
42. Orch. section : STR, OK, string.
45. "It's not too early to call" : I'M UP. Also got via crosses.
46. Sprain support : TAPE
47. Dove's call : COO
48. New York brewery known for its cream ale : GENESEE. Learning moment for me.
51. College choices : MAJORs
54. Turncoat : RENEGADE. Code name for President Obama.
57. "Pardon me," in Palermo : SCUSI. Or SCUSA.
58. Singer Warwick : DIONNE
61. "Imagine so" : I GUESS
62. Bird on Australia's coat of arms : EMU
63. Some celebs have delicate ones : EGOS
65. Dollop : DAB
66. Took off : WENT
1. Humor for a select few : IN JOKES. To avoid the IN dupe, INS. is clued as (35. MetLife's business: Abbr.). Insurance.
2. On the open deck : TOPSIDE. Also got via crosses.
3. All together : EN MASSE
4. Classic music synthesizers : MOOGS
5. __ McMuffin : EGG. 86-year-old Warren Buffett goes to McDonald's for breakfast every morning. This lady is 105 years old, and she eats bacon every day. So what's the secret to long life?
6. Cleaver nickname : BEAV
7. Talus or radius : BONE
8. Central points : GISTS
9. Small bay : INLET
11. Serious injustice : OUTRAGE
12. What may be charged for books? : E-READER. Nice clue.
13. French possessive : SES. We also have 29. Bordeaux buddy : AMI
18. Sleep acronym : REM
22. Pickett's Charge soldier : REB (Rebels)
24. Nightmare loc. of film : ELM ST
26. Website pop-ups, e.g. : ADs
30. Matriarchal nickname : MOMMA
33. Wanted poster initials : AKA
34. __ pole : TOTEM
37. AAA handout : MAP
38. Newton fruit : FIG
39. Explorer Vespucci for whom the New World was named : AMERIGO. Chinese characters for United States is below, literally "Beautiful Country".
40. Turn a deaf ear to : TUNE OUT
42. Cause of calamity : SCOURGE. Another great word.
43. Twisting force : TORSION
44. Most cheerful : ROSIEST
46. Twinings product : TEA. Some tea bags can be toxic. Drink loose tea.
49. Sixth __ : SENSE
50. Cast out : EGEST
52. Simile words : AS A
55. Played mixes at mixers, briefly : DJ'ED
56. Jane Austen novel : EMMA
58. Racket : DIN
60. Mac : BUB
Two crossword notes:
1) The 40th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (March 24-26, 2017) will be held at the Stamford Marriott in Stamford, Connecticut. For those who attend, I hope you won't miss the Cru Dinner organized by the great Mike Alpern. Always makes me smile to see the Crossword Pope.
The Cru Dinner officially kicks off the tournament and is a great opportunity to meet with constructors and fellow solvers. And as a newbie, you'll always get a welcome gift! The space is limited, so be sure to contact with Mike (firstname.lastname@example.org) as soon as possible.
3) Happy 90-year old birthday to Jean, a long-time crossword solver. Her local paper in Fargo carries LAT crosswords, and she solves it every day.