Mr. Ashwood-Smith loves to stack. Today he went a little easy on us, just giving the central quadstack, and I think it made for a more enjoyable puzzle than some of those double quadstack grids.
ANCHORAGEALASKA (26A: U.S. city that's almost as large in area as Delaware) is a great answer, and an interesting bit of trivia. We're not quite sure, though, why FOREIGNMINISTER needs to be 35A: Part of a French cabinet, instead of just any old cabinet. Frannie actually tried "premier ministre" in there, which fit, but was, obviously, not right. She also tried "epoux" for 18A: Ones united in France? (ETATS). "Epoux" means "spouses," and it would have been sweet, but that's maybe a little deeper into the language than even the NYT Crossword is willing to go. As it is, "etats" are states, and "Etats-Unis" is French for "United States."
We aren't familiar with TERRENCEMCNALLY (16A: "Corpus Christi" playwright), but we are familiar with SERGEANTOROURKE (52A: Forrest Tucker's "F Troop" role). Frannie thought of that one. We've allowed ourselves to rest on the "MeTV" network for a few minutes while we watched a little "F Troop," which is still in syndication on that retro channel. You've gotta switch the channel again, though, when the ads come on (they're all depressing - for geriatrics or for battered animals), so we haven't actually watched any full episodes. Also, the plots are idiotic, but we still have a soft spot for the show.
Anyhoo... we were a bit shocked to find a BLOODSTAIN (58A: Bit of forensic evidence) at the bottom of the grid, just below the macabre RIGORMORTIS (58A: What solidifies things in the end?) (kept looking for a glute-related answer... "stairmaster?"...). Horrors! And we finished (after an error) in the middle with VIP (25A: Big gun) (had "ceo" forever!) and VANESSA (25D: 1958 41-Down by Samuel Barber) (?). Also couldn't come up with ALIPASHA (17D: Ottoman ruler nicknamed "The Lion"), so that whole area took a bit of groping. Once we hit upon VIP, though, everything came together. Whew!
Favorite clue/answer pair today - 24A: Pickle (JAM). Beautiful.
Runner up - OTIS (19D: Manufacturer of boxy cars).