Today we were with my Dad while doing the puzzle. He also enjoys crosswords, and, more importantly, he knows his U. S. geography. When we called out 1A: Utah’s ____ Range, he suggested the Uinta, but when told that that wasn’t long enough, he offered up WASATCH without missing a beat, which, of course, was correct. How many of us could name two mountain ranges in Utah off the top of our head? And yet, when doing his own puzzle (not the NYT) he will ask things like "Is 'ERA' a stat for pitchers?" or "Is 'mullet' a kind of hairstyle from the '80s?" Well, we've all got our strengths and weaknesses. And one of his strengths today gave us a great start in the NW! The answer led immediately to WASABI (1D: Condiment that can make your eyes water), AROMAS (2D: Coffee and fresh-baked cookies have them), STAINS (3D: Adds color to) and others.
The ISSO/DRT/YAPSAT line (we somehow missed that 28A: Richard Gere title role) is ugly, but I’ll let it pass because the central fifteen is so crazy. It’s not often you get to cram “JULYIVMDCCLXXVI” through the middle of a grid.
The rest of the fill was a bit ECCENTRIC (33D: Odd), but we liked a few of them. UBERGEEK (36D: Epithet for a computer whiz) was funny, and I like the old-timey formality of AFTERSIX (12D: When to wear a cocktail dress, traditionally). OTTOII (45D: Holy Roman emperor known as “the Red”) right beside MAUMAU (46D: Fighters for Kenyan independence) was pretty rough, but we got the crosses, so it’s all fair, I guess.