Theme: An ordinary, unexceptional, prosaic, standard-issue, run of the mill Wednesday at The Corner. The first word of today's theme entries can be combined with the unifier word GARDEN to present a VARIETY of in-the-language pairings. Often with this kind of theme the generated phrase is original, clever and humorous. Today, true to the spirit of the theme, the resulting phrases are of the GARDEN VARIETY.
The unifier first. 36 A. Commonplace, and what the start of 17-, 24-, 51- or 60-Across is : GARDEN VARIETY. The first recorded use in a figurative sense is from 1928. The evident reference is to something that might be found in anyone's home garden, hence, not special, unique nor exotic. The meaning has expanded a bit to imply mediocrity.
17. Green Day's "American Idiot," e.g. : ROCK OPERA. Released 10 years ago. A sample follows, if you're into that sort of thing. A ROCK GARDEN, cleverly enough, is an an area landscaped with ROCKs and plants suited to that environment.
24. NASCAR winner's celebration : VICTORY LAP. One turn around the track at low speed to allow the winner to bask in the adulation of her/his adoring fans. VICTORY GARDENs were vegetable and herb gardens planted at private residences or public parks in the U.S. and several other countries during WW II. They took considerable pressure off of the public food supply and contributed to morale on the home front.
51. 1995 Stephen King novel : ROSE MADDER. Story about abuse, with the main character ROSE Daniels, in which the pigment ROSE MADDER plays a peripheral role. There are many ROSE GARDENs. One of the famous ones borders the Oval Office and West Wing of the White House. It was established in 1913 by First Lady Ellen Loise Axson Wilson.
60. Spare tire : BEER BELLY. Two slang expressions denoting excess in the midriff region, aka Dunlop's Disease, 'cuz when you sits down, yer belly done lops over yer belt. A BEER GARDEN is an outdoor area, usually associated with a pub or restaurant where beer and food are served. The history is quite interesting.
This clever theme presents us with four quite different VARIETIES of GARDENS. Mediocre? I think not.
Hi, gang, it's JzB your humble GARDEN VARIETY trombonist. Let's see what else Robert has planted for us.
1. Place to wipe your boots : MAT. On the floor by the door.
4. Vice squad strategies : RAIDS.
9. "Darn!" : SHOOT. I'm guessing this is a not-quite-sound-alike substitute for a less polite word.
14. Sister of Zsa Zsa : EVA. The third sib is Magda.
15. Flynn of film : ERROL. Famous buckler of swashes in Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk and many more.
16. Main artery : AORTA. Literally, the main artery of the blood stream.
19. Govt.-backed bond : T-NOTE. T is for Treasury. These notes are issued in terms of 2, 3, 5, 7 and 10 years.
20. Secretary of the Interior under FDR : ICKES. Harold L., progressive Republican deeply involved in Chicago politics, who was recruited by FDR to appeal to middle-of-the-road [Garden Variety?] voters. No politics at The Corner, but you can read about him here.
21. Navel type : INNIE. There are two varieties. Check them out [or in] here.
23. Commuting start? : TELE. Working from home via an electronic device.
29. First-class : STELLAR. The best - probably because this word in its literal sense refers to stars, and they are brilliant.
31. Sales incentive : REBATE. Money back from the seller can be STELLAR.
32. Send to the statehouse : ELECT. In this case, as the governor.
35. "¿Cómo __?" : ESTA. How are you, amigo? Lots of Spanish today.
41. Shade of green : JADE. Green-blue hue named for a gem stone.
42. German steel city : ESSEN. This western German city dates from the 9th century. For the last 400 years it has been associated with the Krupp steel company.
43. __ energy : ATOMIC. Kinetic, potential, chemical, mechanical, magnetic, thermal -- the list goes on.
46. Sleeveless shirt : TANK TOP. Here's one in JADE green.
54. Prefix with space : AERO. A refreshingly honest prefix clue referring to efforts in science, engineering and business to fly in the atmosphere of Earth (aeronautics) and surrounding space (astronautics). [Wikipedia]
55. English Channel port : DOVER. In a region famous for it's white cliffs, as in this WW II era song.
56. Fashionista Mary-Kate : OLSEN. I guess M-K and her twin sis Ashley have become celebrities, which one wag defined as people well-known for being famous.
57. Bolt on a track : USAIN. Love this clue. Bolt means [among other things] to move fast, and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt certainly does that.
63. Red Sea peninsula : SINAI. A region of Egypt between the Red Sea to the south and the Mediterranean to the north. To the East, it borders Israel. It is mostly separated from the rest of Egypt by the Gulf of Suez.
64. Pi, for one : RATIO. Specifically, the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.
65. Tempe sch. : ASU. Arizona State University.
66. Prop for a clown : STILT. Nice double meaning. Looks harmless.
67. Hacienda brick : ADOBE. Straw reinforced bricks of clay or mud, dried in the sun.
68. Fall mo. : SEPtember.
1. Inherent rights and wrongs, as of a case : MERITS. Perhaps our legal beagles can elaborate.
2. Long-legged shore bird : AVOCET. This had me so stumped for a while, that I doubted the perp EVA. Finally had to go googling.
3. Take on, as a challenge : TACKLE.
4. Vintage cars : REOS. It seems that Ransom Eli Olds enjoyed naming cars after himself. I don't think he has anything to do with this, though.
5. Dadaism founder : ARP. Jean or Hans, depending on his audience, a French-German sculptor, painter, poet, and abstract artist. Dada [a word of uncertain origin] rejected reason and logic, prizing nonsense, irrationality and intuition.
6. Rage : IRE. Anger.
7. Greek architectural style : DORIC. The plainest of the three classic support column styles.
8. Viewpoint : SLANT. Everybody has one.
9. "The Colbert Report" stock-in-trade : SATIRE. Political.
10. Winged stinger : HONEY BEE.
11. Gold, in Guadalajara : ORO. Spanish gold.
12. Polo Grounds hero Mel : OTT. Most famous crossword baseball player.
13. __ Bo : TAE. a total body fitness system that incorporates Martial Arts techniques. This phrase is both a portmanteau and a backronym. I am not making this up.
18. Ship stabilizer : KEEL. Either the backbone of a ship or a vertical projection from the bottom of a boat. It lowers the center of gravity to help keep the vessel upright, and also aids forward motion by resisting side-slipping.
22. "... a borrower __ a lender ...": "Hamlet" : NOR. I thought it came from Ben Franklin. Live and learn.
24. Low-lying land : VALE.
25. "Me, Myself & __": Jim Carrey film : IRENE. I wanted EILENE. That's my mom. IRENE is her twin sister.
26. In the cellar, sportswise : LAST. Surprisingly, where the Red Sox are at the moment.
27. ABA member : ATTY. American Bar Association and ATTorneY.
28. Pot pie veggie : PEA. I like them, but not everybody does.
30. Was in front : LED. Like the K. C. Royals did briefly in mid-June.
33. Rite Aid rival : CVS. Drug stores
34. Sample : TASTE. Is it in good taste to taste a TASTE?
36. Chihuahua cat : GATO. Mas Español.
37. Ruckuses : ADOS. Not often seen in the plural.
38. Like some skill-building classes : REMEDIAL. These classes are intended to correct a deficiency.
39. __ admiral : REAR. The lowest of the admiral ranks.
40. Bed-and-breakfast, e.g. : INN. Establishment offering food and lodgings.
41. Moonshine container : JAR. I had JUG at first.
44. "Consider the job done!" : I'M ON IT. As with this puzzle, but I'm not done yet.
45. Cleveland NBAer : CAValier.
47. Cabbagelike plant : KALE. A leafy green.
48. Electric cars named for a physicist : TESLAS.
49. Ultimatum words : OR ELSE. Sounds like a threat.
50. Fork over what's due : PONY UP. The meaning is clear. The origin - not so much.
52. Actress Winger : DEBRA. Her break-through role was in Urban Cowboy (1980.)
53. Profound fear : DREAD.
56. Clarinet cousin : OBOE. I don't think this is valid. Cylindrical vs conical bore is simply too great a difference in my mind, let alone single vs double reed. But you can check it out and draw your own conclusions.
57. Naval letters : USS. United States Ship. I just recently learned that SS means Steam Ship.
58. Grab a stool : SIT. In a bar or a barn?
59. "Give me __!": start of a Hoosier cheer : AN I. For Indiana. Why Hoosier? There's more here than I cared to read.
61. WWII arena : ETO. European Theater of Operations.
62. Tease : RIB. Another word uncertain origin, perhaps from something funny being rib-tickling.
Quite a nice puzzle, despite a couple nits, and fun to blog. Hope you all enjoyed it.