Hey everybody! It seems like a long time since I last blogged, but that's quarantime for you. This week, I'll be blogging from lovely Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, where today the beach was lovely but the people weren't far enough apart and too few masks were being worn. Not to mention the thousands of jellyfish... Fortunately, the house we're renting has a pool, so we've relocated poolside. Tomorrow, once the weekend folks have departed, we shall hope for better luck.
The puzzle's theme seems particularly apt, though. I think we can all agree that the circles were completely necessary, as, without them, I would not have had any idea what to make of the instructions found at 66A: In perfect order ... or, as two words, what's formed by applying the answers for the five italicized clues to the circled letters (SHIPSHAPE).
As it is, the app on my iPad filled in the shape for me, which was sort of a shame. I would have liked the opportunity to figure it out on my own. Although, come to think of it, I wouldn't have been able to draw on the screen.
See, the italicized clues lead to answers which can describe shapes. For example, 36D: Rick, Ilsa and Victor had one in "Casablanca" (LOVETRIANGLE) can then be interpreted to form a triangle using the letters L-O-V-E, which then turns into the sail of the ship. Similarly, SECURITYLINE, STORYARC, SKISLOPE, and TOWNSQUARE help create the rest of the ship. I love the idea, and the carrying out of the concept.
But some fun cluing also saves the day. I laughed at 92A: Event that's a bit off? (SALE). 97A: It gives Ford an "F": Abbr. (NYSE) makes that abbreviation enjoyable. Also, 22A: S as in soup? (NOODLE) was unexpected.