I remember certain teachers and professors who seemed to hate giving a student an A on any paper, having had my work DOWNGRADED for penmanship or failing to explain an answer even when the answer was correct. We have our 4th puzzle from David, all on Friday and like his June 2017 PUZZLE, this is a letter substitution. Each of the five themers hs the letter "A" downgraded to a "B." The reveal is simple, and the trick is to have the resulting fill be witty. I think they are good, but YMMV. MEDIA BIBS/MEDIA BIAS seems timely, BLT RIGHT/ALT-RIGHT as well.
We have quite a bit of sparkle, with EPITOME (I will always remember Peter Wiley trying to defend the epi - tome pronunciation in school, he also said Are Kansas), ORATION, SAW TO IT, SHOT PUT, STUN GUN, TARNISH along with two fill longer than some of themers HANDSHAKE and LED ASTRAY. Well, let's solve this.
17A. *Protection for a press feeding frenzy? : MEDIA BIBS (9). How could I speak of MEDIA BIAS without getting political?
26A. *Result of nodding off at an auction? : SLEEP BID (8). If you took a SLEEP AID before the auction, and it was really strong like Ambien...I can picture this happening.
27A. *Sandwich-centric extremists? : BLT RIGHT (8). The BLT is fun, the ALT-RIGHT, not os much but it too is politics.
50A. *Where to read all the latest computer port news? : USB TODAY (8). The cutes clue/fill and a CSO to USA Today.
52A. *Female employee of a tech giant? : IBM WOMAN (8). I AM WOMAN was a very big song and could be the anthem of the Me Too generation...oops more politics.
63A. Rating reduction responsible for the answers to starred clues: DOWNGRADE (9). With all the ex-teachers who come to the Corner, this should be very popular.
Okay, let us look at the rest.
1. Scratch __: woodworking tools: AWLS. A scratch awl is a woodworking layout and point-making tool. It is used to scribe a line to be followed by a hand saw or chisel when making woodworking joints and other operations.
5. Split wide open: GAPE.
9. Green "Sesame Street" character: OSCAR. Don't be grouchy.
14. Scallion relative: LEEK. Onions and garlic belong to the Allium genus. Allium, in fact, is derived from the Greek word for garlic. Shallots, leeks, scallions, and chives are also members of the allium family.
15. Sea predator: ORCA.
16. Asian city translates to "place of the gods": LHASA. Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, lies on the Lhasa River's north bank in a valley of the Himalayas. Rising atop Red Mountain at an altitude of 3,700m, the red-and-white Potala Palace once served as the winter home of the Dalai Lama. The first of the geography.
19. Tight headgear: DO RAG. Neon Deion helped make them famous.
20. Masseur's workplace: SPA.
21. Word with fly or about: GAD. How many of you remember Roscoe GADDIS?
22. Shining example: EPITOME.
24. What a burglar hopes not to be: SEEN. Cute clue.
30. Fort Collins sch. : CSU. Colorado State University. U. of Colorado is in Boulder.
31. Merits: EARNS.
32. Italian capital: EURO. The old money distraction.
34. Dilute: THIN. It makes sense mixing paints etc.
38. Letters for John Smith? : AKA. Also Known As. Almost everyone has one, based on using or not using middle initials for examples. Banks now make you sign an AKA affidavit when you borrow money.
39. Besmirch: TARNISH. Besmirch is such a great old-fashioned word.
42. Dudley the Dinosaur's org.: ADA. American Dental Association.
43. Books with test answers: KEYS. The teachers' key.
45. Twitter's bird, e.g.: LOGO.
46. One with a title: OWNER. Property.
48. Cry of discovery: AHA.
56. Poems of praise: ODES.
57. Lincoln output: ORATION.
58. "No seats" sign: SRO. Standing Room Only.
59. Egg producer ... and product: HEN.
62. Tuesday dish? : TACOS. According to The Strange History Of Taco Tuesday, the phrase "Taco Tuesday" was coined in 1989 by a Mexican food chain Taco John's. (Quora).
66. Expect: AWAIT.
67. Northern terminus of I-79: ERIE. Another CSO to Abejo and others. Geography.
68. Lute family members: UKES.
69. ATM features: SLOTS. Why this clue?
70. Kind of lily: SEGO. As the Utah state flower.
71. Tendency: BENT.
1. Help for the poor: ALMS. From the word eleemosynary.
2. Sob: WEEP.
3. Acting on bad advice: LED ASTRAY.
4. __ jump: SKI. Timely; any watching the Winter Olympics.
5. Explode: GO BANG. We had a very sad go bang at a school here in Broward County.
6. Parched: ARID.
7. Chem. pollutant banned in 1979: PCB. Polychlorinated biphenyl is an organic chlorine which was banned by the United States Congress in 1979 and by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001.
8. Canvas support: EASEL. Paintings.
9. Elvis hits, e.g.: OLDIES. Interesting choice of artist.
10. Decathlon event: SHOTPUT.
11. Chocolate substitute: CAROB. A slightly healthier ALTERNATIVE.
12. "Me too": AS AM I.
13. Lost it: RAGED.
18. Elder hostile? : AGEIST.
23. River through New Mexico: PECOS. Texas and New Mexico. LINK.
25. Seaside eagle: ERN.
26. Immobilizing law-enforcement tool: STUNGUN.
28. Camp sight, perhaps: LAKE.
29. Forrest Gump, for one: HERO.
33. Some are tributaries: RIOS. Like the RIO Grande, see above. Geography.
35. Cordial greeting: HANDSHAKE.
36. Notion: IDEA.
37. Not: NARY.
40. Budget competitor: ALAMO.
41. Cylindrical sandwich: HOTDOG. I love this definition.
44. Took care of things: SAW TO IT.
47. Sorrow: WOE.
49. Construction site apparatuses: HOISTS.
51. World's third-largest island: BORNEO. Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and the largest in Asia. Geography.
52. Tiny bits: IOTAS.
53. Serious fight: BRAWL.
54. Former Portuguese territory in China: MACAO. This amazing PLACE.
55. Aconcagua's range: ANDES. More geography.
58. Way more than a sip: SWIG.
60. Paradise: EDEN. Garden - more geography.
61. Animal home: NEST.
64. Willamette Valley state: Abbr. : OREgon. WINE anyone? Geography.
65. Obstacle: RUB. Since JW did not give us a Shakespeare last week, here.
"To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
the heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
that Flesh is heir to? 'Tis a consummation
devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there's the rub..."
I hope you enjoyed this workout. It was all over the place but the theme was doable and I did not see any really obscure cluing, so I had fun. Thank you, DAB. Hope you had a great Valentine's Day. Those of you who sent wishes for those affected by our local tragedy - thank you. David, it has been a pleasure. Lemonade out.
Here is my Valentine memory.