This puzzle really had me guessing right up until the final anti-climactic (as it were) finish. And in this case, it's not a tacky clue, it's the theme. And the theme is not actually tacky, just ... well, you'll see.
As a puzzle, this is another solid affair from Richard E. Maltby Jr. Favorites include 30D "Tom in Spain, a hybrid goat (4)" = GATO from Tom (qua cat) translated into the Spanish GATO and anagram'ed. Also 36A "Was first Zeppelin's leader (3)" = LED and 7D "As written, Kafka's hero is unbalanced (3)" = SIC + K. Some really juicy, novel clueing here.
But the theme is "The Story of O," and if those four words mean nothing to you, The Story of O is an erotic sado-masochistic and loosely autobiographic novel by Pauline Réage, pen name for Anne Desclos. The material was so controversial that Desclos kept her identity secret for forty years.
I quote the documentary Writer of O:
The Story of O is a book you hear about when you're 13, and then never again.That was exactly the case for me! I first heard of this book from the hip kids from New York City I met at summer camp. Then I never heard of it again until 10 years later when the documentary came to Boston.
It's an intense book. Some versions end with O's death.
So you can imagine my surprise to lay eyes on the puzzle's theme! You can't read bondage, domination, sadism, or masochism into the theme. That's because there's nothing to read into! You read it! It's right there! I'm not just over here dredging up controversy, like how if I'm bored at a party and I might start questioning the truth of the Apollo Moon Landings.
The Apollo Moon Landings conspiracy. You think it's a dead issue that no one cares about. Lemme tell you: everyone cares. If you are bored at a party, just toss in even a little doubt. Just be real cool and casual, and say, "I mean, if there's no wind, then how does the flag wave? We've all seen the video. Amirite?" even if you know full well exactly why the flag waves. And if the flag-wave doesn't get you traction, just toss in a, "well, how can you really know? I mean, really. How can you really know?"
This won't run into the same wall that "[cocky half-smile] well, there's no objective reality. Think about that. Go ahead, I'll wait" usually slams you right into. Everyone's heard about how there's No Objective Reality and they're ready to turn their brains off when you or some other cool person brings it up. But the Apollo Moon Landings Conspiracy: brains alive! Brains on fire!
Throughout my three‑day solve I was waiting for the big BDSM shoe to drop (kick). The theme had something to do with nine letters connected by a blue line. Would they eventually spell out a filthy obscenity? What perversity lay in store for we
And the theme turns out to be about: golf. The unsexiest of sports. The blue lines connect letter Os to symbolize nine holes of golf. This is as if the theme were "Debbie Does Dallas" and the theme solutions were about landmarks in Dallas and famous Debbies.
related: are you aware that there is a TV series titled Debbie Does Dallas Again? Because so much was left unsaid the first time.