Today's theme answers are, according to the revealer, ABPOSITIVE, which in this case means that they are two-word answers where the first word starts with an A and the second with a B. Our first sign of the theme came at 17A. Little did I realize when I entered ALARMBELLS (Early warnings of danger) that I would nearly flounder on the shoals of the Isle of FWOE a few minutes later.
But all that was in the future. I got off to a good start with this puzzle, and, unlike Chili's appetizer with a rhyming name (AWESOMEBLOSSOM) I continued right along, dropping in ISH, MRTOAD, and FETA as fast as I could type. I wasn't sure of the spelling of MORRIE, but I knew who we were looking for. I didn't hit my first real snag until I arrived at COLOMBO. As our esteemed readers know, this reviewer's knowledge of world capitals is slim - A negative for puzzle solvers, that's for sure. However, I managed to move on and things went swimmingly until I arrived in the southeast. That's when things started to get a little fishy. I couldn't get the two side-by-side question mark clues (39- and 46-Down) right off the bat. Not knowing "Workplace of Jack Bauer on '24,' for short" didn't help. My guesses of FBI and CIA did not crack the case. And, even though I knew AGNUS (Sacred lamb, from the Latin,) the 'GS' start to 46 down (Outerwear?) was making me second guess myself. Things were getting tench and I'd just about haddock when suddenly a ray of inspiration struck, and I finally figured out GSUIT and CASTLEING. Wahoo!
Speaking of weird looking fill, how about these two cod looking answers?
"Spill the tea!" (DOTELL)
"Soft drink brand" (AANDW)
It was a fun puzzle, and I don't want to B negative, but let's just say these three answers weren't my type:
Yardstick part (EDGE)
Flashy one, for short? (PHOTOG)
Reading the Wordplay blog about this puzzle tells quite an amazing story. There are two extra levels of puzzle theme here: it's a wedding puzzle, and the bride and grooms names are hidden in 16A, 36A, 65A, and 68A. In addition, the first letters of the clues when read in order spell a lovely remembrance of the bride's father, who passed away before the wedding. A tear should be shed, and was.
I filled this in pretty quickly except for the east, where, even though I watched all of "24," I entered Cia while simultaneously not knowing AGNUS. Therefore, I was staring at C_SiLING and _SaIT, not knowing what to do. That is, until CASTLING (brilliant clue) came to me, causing me to remember the CTU and then seeing GSUIT, all within a few seconds of each other, which often happens. That cost me around nine minutes! Anyway, AURORABOREALIS is my favorite of the bunch; I first saw this phenomenon in Iceland 2018. Not sure why the revealer is ABPOSITIVE (as opposed to negative), but it's a fine theme overall. I don't know much about the extra level Colum mentions. I suppose I could look it up.
Boy, that is a really touching story, Colum. So cool that Will and the team helped this to happen.