OMG! Mr. Shortz has GOT to be reading this blog. How else could it happen that ASOF (6D: Starting) could appear again today? For the third day in a row!?! I just... can't... even...
Kind of a light Thursday theme today. Three-word phrases built with two words and their proximity. As in: BAPTISM [by] FIRE (3D: With 14-Down, literally, grueling initiation), ASIF [by] MAGIC (beyond rational explanation), TRIAL [by] JURY (a Sixth Amendment right), and LEAD [by] THENOSE (control completely). Nice enough. Clean. Unstrained. As I said, it seems a little thin, but maybe it's super tough to stack theme words like that side [by] side. I guess there must be some difficulty, because we end up with TRIUNES (30A: Three-in-one gods), DSCS (65A: U.S. Army decorations, in brief), SPIELED (24A: Delivered a pitch) (another verbized noun...), SHESA and OLAFII.
But it's not all bad. The seven-stacks in the NE and SW are solid. CREDENZA (4D: Sideboard) is nice, as are DOOZIE (235D: Humdinger) and EIFFEL (46D: Towering Frenchman?). Cute.
My problem today came at the intersection of EFT (47A: Direct-deposit payment, for short) and TAEL (48D: Far East unit of weight). Neither of those two things am I familiar with, so that T was ungettable. Sometimes it goes that way, I guess.
Overall, it didn't quite do it for me. The theme is only mildly entertaining, and there's a little too much ITAR, ASIF, HAI, INRE, NALA, MES, and EOS (that's a VW?). And, again, AMAZINGLY, ASOF.