I can't in all honesty claim a finishing time of 12:22 for this puzzle, because I made too many errors. I entered backJUDGE at 1D: Offside detector (LINEJUDGE), off the bat, but switched it to sIdEJUDGE (kind of funny that all three names actually exist in a football refereeing team) to get IMO and EZPASS, but did not check to see that dAM made no sense for 17A: Where the VC fought. I did wonder whether sAC made sense for 1A: Mer d'Aral, e.g. (LAC). Especially in retrospect, that seems silly. On the other hand, why on earth would we refer to the Aral Sea in French just to get that term? Why not a true French lake, such as Lake Geneva? Well, maybe because that would have the word "lac" in its name. In any case, this was the low point of the puzzle, and I give 1A a D.
I made two other errors, one at 24A: Longtime record label for Elton John (MCA): I put in rCA. I also for some peculiar reason had TOEtAP at 39A, and didn't realize that tORSICA was wrong. Anyway, that's why I said DNF.
Other than these miscues, the puzzle went swimmingly indeed for a Saturday. The trios of 11-letter answers in the NE and SW are great. 18A: Mold in the freezer? (ICECUBETRAY) I entered off the B in GABE (a gimme for us longtime Sox fans). 16A: Disappearing word? (ABRACADABRA) is always fun to see in its entirety. RADIOGALAXY is an outstanding term I've not encountered before.
The two trios of 9-letter words in the NW and SE are also very good. My favorite is SALARYCAP (33D: Higher-up sports figure?).
All of these flashy words come at a price, though. ENS didn't fool me for a second. YAYS and YEA in the same puzzle; MIL and JOULE and MICRONS as a trio of measurements; OCULARS not so great. And ZIMA saw its heyday 20 years ago.
Anyway, I could go with many of the above noted for my favorite clue-answer pairing, but I'm going to choose 45D: They charge a lot for their cars (TESLA). It's not exactly right somehow, but I like the twist in the clue.