TRUSTME when I say that I am generally delighted to see Mr. Charlson's name at the top of a puzzle. I enjoy his sensibility and the way he carries out themes.
Today, I didn't understand the theme at all even after I completed the puzzle and had time to look back. Until it hit me. That's what I call an "aha" moment. The revealer comes at 63A: Explained in great detail ... or what four of this puzzle's clues are? (SPELLEDOUT). So, I had recognized early that 18-, 22-, 38-, and 57-Across all used words that were homonyms for individual letters. Thus, 18A: Kay, e.g., was clearly referring to the letter K.
But that "e.g." threw me off. What was K supposed to be an example of? And how could that relate to the answer, BEERBARREL?
You see, what you're supposed to do is spell the entire clue out, thus K-E-G, "keg!" Brilliance. The others are L-E-G (DRUMSTICK), P-E-G (CRIBBAGEMARKER - a personal favorite amongst the authors of this blog), and B-E-G (PANHANDLE). So good.
The only downer in the puzzle was Roger B. TANEY, racist and author of the Dred Scott decision. But I was able to look past this BADVIBE for other more ROBUST fare.
If you haven't read the Patrick OBRIAN Aubrey-Maturin books, you are missing out on an outstanding literary achievement. The first book is a little daunting because it explains in some great detail the makeup of a British naval ship during the Napoleonic war era. But the relationship between the two main characters is beautifully drawn.
Other enjoyable entries include GAUSS, SORCEROR, and MISSAL. I enjoyed the clue for 4D: Land of Opportunity? (MARS) - referring to the NASA exploration rover.
Nice start to the turn.