I hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew; I’m on tap to review today’s puzzle and I’ve never even seen the movie JAWS (1975 summer blockbuster). Luckily, as it turned out, there wasn’t much theme-related fill beyond AMITYISLAND that required the expert knowledge of an OLDHAND. The popup info screen even gave away the puzzle's added component – an image that would be revealed when a line was drawn connecting five appropriate squares. The squares that filled the bill each contained the apt rebus FIN, including the extra apt DORSAL[FIN]. 49D. “Pixielike” EL[FIN] first clued me into the rebus. I was glad it did, as the blade of the “fin” had been giving me some trouble until then.
The puzzle contains a lot of excellent theme fill, but the form of the grid itself was also used to excellent theme advantage. The line of black squares in the middle represent the surface of the ocean under which lurks, dead center, the GREAT WHITE SHARK, in very good company with SEAMONSTER and WATERHAZARD on the left and on the DEEPTHREAT and REELBIGFISH on the right. Quite sharp! Above water line we find SPEILBERG on the left and MANEATING on the right. I found the symmetry and balance of the theme answers very pleasing.
Maybe the theme could be expanded to include SALTBATH (Bit of hydrotherapy) and CASPER, the great white friendly ghost as well. :)
In addition to the extensive theme-related fill, there were other clues to sink one’s teeth into. I liked both INERTGAS and GEARBOX in the northeast. GLIB, MALIGN, and FRAZZLES are nice words.
I also liked the clue “Mother or sister” for NUN, DEAFEAR (Metaphor for deliberate ignorance], and CAB for Hack.
Some clues did put me off my chum. I thought DREADS clued as a plural noun instead of a verb was weird. I have a lot of dreads? I also don’t think of HUFFINESS as an especially “Peevish quality,” but maybe I just have to go back to school.
I gnashed my teeth when I realized the answer to 114D “Oscar ____ (Hollywood honor, informally) was going to be NOM. That abbreviation gets my Speedo in a bunch.