I was excited to finally see Brendan Emmett Quigley's name today. He's from Boston, and for a while his puzzles ran weekly in "The Dig," a free paper available in boxes throughout the city. Frannie and I actually composed, anonymously, a couple puzzles for The Dig many years ago, but Brendan's were of a different caliber, and, sadly, he was too good for them. One day they just stopped running a puzzle altogether. I sort of assumed that either they were too cheap to pay him, or that he had just grown too big to continue dealing with such a rag. Elizabeth Donovan is new to me, but I look forward to running into her again in the future now, too.
Anyway, that's the backstory– what about today's puzzle? Well, we enjoyed it. Clean overall (with a few exceptions), with some of the clever cluing that I've come to expect from B.E.Q. How 'bout that gimmie: 36A: "____ aren't the droids you're looking for" ("Star Wars" line)? (THESE). Do they really have to cite the movie? Anyway, it's nice to get one of those on a Thursday. It really opened up that somewhat tricky Eastern section. Phil NIEKRO (25D: Baseball Hall-of-Famer nicknamed Knucksie) might trouble those not up on the history of the game, and TOSSIN (26D: Give, as a little extra) and ONEUPS (27D: Tops) took a cross or two.
ITGUY (58A: One providing assistance after a crash) was very nice, as was CRIB (65A: It's got all the answers). DJED (1D: Entertained at a reception, maybe), is a nice tricky one. Nobody expects a J. And speaking of expectations, I wanted "Morgan" for 28D: Funny Tracey (even though he's not all that funny to me), and was somewhat relieved when ULLMAN showed up.
Franny thought it had a striking mix of very easy and challenging clues, but maybe that's what you need on a Thursday that's got a trick. Oh, and speaking of the trick - MANOVERBOARD (51A: Emergency shout ... or a possible title for this puzzle) - we got that before getting any of the other theme answers, and it helped immediately. First with DARINCHINESE (20A: Language that gave us "kowtow"), then with UALTRANSMISSION (28A: Clutch performer?) (very nice). The last one fell once it was riddled with crosses, but I kept looking for them in the downs, too. Like, is it really, "The Man Champ?" or "The Champ Man?" for 5D: 1931 film for which Wallce Beery won Best Actor (THECHAMP), probably not, but you see what I mean. Maybe.
The last section today was the very bottom center. I had "Vice" for 53D: No. 2, and nothing else would fall. Finally, when nothing is working, you've gotta start erasing, and the change to VEEP made everything hunky-dory.
Nice puzzle. Keep up the good work, Brendan and Elizabeth.
p.s. I have learned since writing this that Brendan and Liz are husband and wife. They are now an inspiration to Frannie and me. Someday, maybe, we'll make the jump from The Dig to the Big Time, too! We can always dream, can't we?