I have returned! This is Colum, filling in for Horace and Frannie, whose router has apparently betrayed them, such that they are unable to post. Fortunately, they are coming to visit the day after tomorrow to ring in the New Year in sunny Albany, New York, and they can chime in on my witty and urbane musings at that time.
Speaking of which, this was a surprisingly difficult Monday puzzle. Sure 1A: Titanic victim John Jacob ____ (ASTOR) was a gimme, and I filled in the remainder of the NW-most corner until hitting 5D: 1970 John Wayne film (RIOLOBO), crossing 14A: Havana hero José (MARTI) and 21A: ____ nut (Chinese fruit) (LITCHI). And don't we usually spell that "lychee?" Seems litchi chinensis is the scientific name for the genus. Well, no issue, I worked away from it, but many more un-Monday like entries loomed.
MOTT, ROUX, ZEROG, XOUT, SHEP all gave me more than the usual pause. 55A: Second-stringers (BTEAMS) is not okay. A B-team is already made up of second-stringers, plural, You don't need more than one. On the other hand, 13D: Enjoys Joyce, Carroll or Oates (READS) was a fun clue. 30D: Like integers of the form 2n + 1 (ODD) was an oddly long clue for such a short answer, and I liked it.
Which brings us to the theme. I liked all of the answers, although TEACHEST is the poorest fit. And SPELLITOUT is a good revealer. Overall, I'd say not the best Monday, and I think the six theme answers are responsible. For me, fill trumps theme, unless the theme is outstanding, which is not the case today.