Before I start this review, I'd like to take a minute to discuss a variety puzzle by Patrick Blindauer which was raved about by both Amy Reynaldo (Crossword Fiend) and Michael Sharp (Rex Parker). We've raved about Mr. Blindauer's puzzles in the past, so we thought we'd spend the $1.00 and try it. In the end, I respect the amount of work that went into the puzzle, and it took a certain amount of work to finish it, but I found it flawed in some ways and in the end, not that satisfying. If you decide to try it yourself, let me know and I'd be happy to discuss it further.
All that just as a preface to say that this Monday puzzle was almost shockingly easy in comparison. I know Monday's are easy, but when you've just come off a "five-star" puzzle, well, it just seems even moreso.
But I liked it fine. THEBIGFIVEOH (53A: Milestone birthday, informally … with a hint to 20-, 31-, and 41-Across) is no longer very far ahead of me, so this puzzle was like a little pin in my own personal VOODOODOLL (41A: Black magic item). On the bright side, although I'm not old enough to have seen her skate, I am old enough to have at least heard of 39A: Skater Sonja who won three Olympic gold medals (HENIE). Of course, a regular solver of any age would also know her name.
In fact, there are quite a few women's names in here that would be familiar to any WWI VETERAN or EDSEL driver, GARBO, MADAME (24A: "____ Bovary"), OLIVE (32D: ____ Oyl), and let's not forget about EVE. Heh.
Not a ton to say. I dislike FOTO (21D: Pic) (would anyone spell it that way?), but it's a nice touch putting SORORITY beside FRAT. And I guess 12D: "Act your ____!" AGE could be a little bonus theme material.
It was a decent enough Monday.