Ahhh... Thursdays. Back to the tricky puzzles. Back to a good, old-fashioned rebus. So comforting. So fun.
That being said, having back-to-back death themes is a little weird. The first themer today sounds kind of like a Jane Austen horror film: "Pride and Preju... DIE! DIE!" But no, one must put the dies together and call them "dice." And then it's all back to normal, and we're back to the BO[DIE][DIE](dice)RIPPERS that are the Austen canon. Heh. I can say that because I know Frannie hardly ever reads these things. :)
So the theme is at least a tricky one. When taken doubly the rebuses become "dice," but in the Downs, where they occur only once, they are simply "die." It works well in most places, with SPEE[DIE]ST (44D: First to break the tape) being the most strained. That whole SE corner, incidentally, is pretty damned strained. We have the EACH (55A: A head) running across the top, fine, and I kind of like how ADUE (56D: In unison, in a way) comes off of that, even if it is foreign. But CTRL (57D: PC key) is weak, and HEIL (58D: Greeting with a salute) must always give one pause, mustn't it? Even if they do try to "cheer it up" by putting the word "greeting" in the clue. And there's ASA, clued as a partial, and then the elephant in the grid, TSURIS (64A: Trouble, in Yiddish). Wow. That's digging deep into the ol' Yiddish bag, isn't it? OYS! They've got a lot of 31D: Chutzpah putting that in here. I don't believe I've ever heard it before. And if my quick etymological investigation is correct, it comes from the same stem that the name "Sarah" comes from. Interesting.
But you know what? I don't really mind an entry like that in certain situations, and here it is nicely balanced both by a fun, tricky theme, and by another "TS..." entry in the SW - TSARINAS (65A: Bygone royals). It's crosswordese stretched by making it feminine and plural, but the crosses on that one, at least, are all pretty good.
So what am I saying? That I forgive nonsense like NBAER, CALIF, GRO, AAS, ASSOC, and LAH just because I get a rebus? Yep. Pretty much.
1A: Like a banjo (TWANGY) - B+. Everyone loves the banjo!
Favorite clue/answer - 35D: Something to dispense with (URN). Cute.
Honorable mentions to 11D: Boy toy? (GIJOE), 40A: One making a lot of turns on the road? (AXLE), the Lucas-pandering 45A: Word repeated at the start of every "Star Wars" film (FAR) (It opens today!), and the absurdly clued 49A: Five fifths (ONE). Also, I liked how "gun" and "ski" both fit in where AIM (48A: Biathalon need) belonged.
Overall, there's plenty of good in this to make up for the bad. Thumbs up!