A puzzle for the underdogs!
Once upon a time, most of the professional sports teams I rooted for were underdogs of a sort. The Red Sox, the Patriots... Okay, not the Celtics in the 1980s, but they were not so great for the 1990s and early 2000s. Nowadays, though, my teams are bullies. Don't get me wrong, it's been a ton of fun watching them win titles over and over again since 2001.
I actually want all of the "cursed" teams to win titles so we can stop talking about that sort of thing.
But back to the puzzle. This is a great theme. Peculiar, but right to the point. Only three answers, but each one paradoxically shows how the unexpected can be overcome.
17A: Where a queen can beat a king (CHESSMATCH). I wanted CHESSboard, which feels more natural to answer the question of "where," but I'll accept the actual answer, even though it feels a bit forced.
39A: Where an ace can beat a pair (DOUBLESTENNIS). Much better. This was amusing, but not so much as...
61A: Where two pair beats three of a kind (SOCKDRAWER). Hah! That's awesome. I laughed out loud when I figured it out, which took a few moments because I initially had Gre for GED. Wrong, as the GRE is a test for graduate school, while the GED is a test to complete high school. Anyway, I really love this theme answer.
Having only three theme answers means there's a lot of room for innovation elsewhere. Two 11-letter answers and one 15-letter answer run down through the puzzle. LAMEBRAINED is outstanding. GOTOTHEDOGS is likewise quite good. I don't love DOTHEBESTYOUCAN, but still, it went through all three of the theme answers.
More impressive are the two 8-letter answers going across in the middle. Being adjacent to that theme answer makes it tougher to fit in. AMESIOWA is nice, better than seeing only one or the other of the 4-letter halves. And TRIBUTES is nice. Glen Campbell just passed away. I've heard some nice tributes to him on NPR already. He stood up for people with Alzheimer's disease, performing well after he'd lost a lot of his memory, with his family helping him out on stage. Lovely.
1A: Feeds the kitty (ANTES). C-. Standard crossword stuff.
Fave: EROS (59A: One taking a bow in Greek art). I've been known to take a bow.
Least fave: PONE (15A: Dixie bread). Everybody knows "pone" is the name of the person who isn't dealing in cribbage. No other definitions are acceptable.