Well, well, well! This was our first chance to try a NYTX by the illustrious Rex Parker himself! I was set up to be extra critical of the critic, but this grid was pretty good. Frannie started it off, at first having little success, but after a few things went in, it was all of a sudden three-quarters done! I just had a bit of work to do in the north and east.
I liked the symmetrical ten-stacks running around the perimeter, and the words were interesting and/or current. Except for EARLMONROE (12D: N.B.A. Hall-of-Famer who, with Walt Frazier, formed the Knicks' "Rolls Royce Backcourt."), that is. After reading regularly about the lacunae in Rex's knowledge base, sports trivia among them, I have to think he just found that this name existed in Google and happily used it. That's fine, of course. It's also possible that Rex knows him. He did, after all, play for the Knicks. But I'm dwelling too much on that. It's fine, and the others - TABLECLOTH (1A: Dinner spread), GREGARIOUS (13D: Outgoing), ASSAILANTS (14D: Hit makers, say), OPERATIONS (28D: They're ordered by mathematicians) (nice!), were all good. I don't watch PORTLANDIA (27D: TV sketch comedy set in the "city where young people go to retire") or know who TYLERPERRY (61A: Movie mogul whom Forbes magazine once named the highest-paid man in entertainment) is, but it didn't matter, because Frannie filled those in! Hah!
One thing I'm pretty sure Rex does know is poetry (I think he's an English teacher), so I'm assuming that SMA (11D: Kind of request in a Robert Burns poem) is an actual thing that people might know. I like poetry, and I've read some Burns, but I don't know what request is being made here.
Frannie's favorite part was the 16A: Roman 18-Across/18A: Greek 16-Across combo. She knew what was going on immediately, but had to wait for a letter or two (Juno and Hera could also have fit) before filling in MARS and ARES.
Overall, it was solid. A little on the easy side, especially for a Friday, but decent. Here's hoping Rex was just being melodramatic when he said in his blog yesterday that this would probably be his last for the NYT.