Well, we've gone the whole month without a rebus on Thursday. I guess the "X marks the spot" (July 6) puzzle was kind of like a rebus, but if you put in the word "spot" instead of an X, the online version did not record a complete puzzle.
So what do we have today instead? A visual play on the expression HOLDDOWNTHEFORT. The letters "FORT" in three theme answers are dropped vertically into another Down answer. I like that the FORTs are dropped at the end, the beginning, and the middle of the theme answers. That gives it a polished feel. The revealer has to be loosely interpreted for it to make sense, but I'm ok with that, too. I mean.... there have been a lot of puzzles with themes. We've got to allow a little creative interpretation if we want to keep seeing these, right?
Anyway, the three theme answers are all perfectly good, what about the fill? We've got a few outliers, like the medical ECTOPIC (13A: Out of place, in obstetric parlance), the completely-unknown-at-least-to-me J. M. SYNGE, "The Playboy of the Western World" playwright, and a few bits like ESTAS, HOR, and EEN, but there was way more fun and funny fill, starting with:
1A: Game animals, for some (MASCOTS) - A.
Favorite: I enjoyed 1D: Moving aspect of urban life? (METRO)
Least: Maybe REAIMS (63A: Adjusts one's sights), but really, that's not terrible
Lots to enjoy in this. Uncommon words like RIVEN, STAVE, and ACRID, and MOBRULE (24D: Civil unrest approaching anarchy) and PUGET (8D: Sound in Washington). Even the lowly SSN gets a fun clue "Figure kept in the head, usually: Abbr."
I got nailed on a theme similar to this in the Evan Birnholz puzzle at last year's Lollapuzzoola, so I sussed this one out fairly quickly and was careful not to make the same mistake(s) again.
NW corner was the only challenging spot for me. I had RECLININGINCOMFORT and a few other ideas before TRAVELING.
ECTOPIC is not much of an outlier, said the physician. LANDSALES is a strange term, but acceptable, I suppose. My favorite answer is HOTTUNA, although I've never listened to any of their music. The theme didn't hold me up much, but I did like where the "fort"s were located, as Horace mentioned. All in good FUNE.
MOBRULE is a normal expression, much as ECTOPIC is not. What, Colum has never heard HOTTUNA? Hopefully that's been corrected by now. How old is he?!?! The toughest theme answer for me was F[ORT]UNEHUNTER; that took quite a long time. I alternated between Sally FORTH and Sally wORTH, not remembering which was correct, until I finally saw the answer sitting right there in front of me. SYNGE isn't known to me, either. I thought the PASTA clue was pretty good today (8A It may be long, twisted or hollow). Frannie probably knew RECTO right off the bat.