Whew! What a tough Thursday. And I'm just going to say how much I loved it. Which is a lot. Just in case I wasn't clear.
To start off, how nice to put DOCTORS / WITHOUT / BORDERS in a symmetric slanted stack of 7-letter answers in the middle. You'd think that might cause some real ugly fill. But Mr. Ries goes even further and adds two high quality 9-letter answers in HUSHMONEY above and ANDREGIDE (nice having the full name there) below. With good clues, to boot! 31A: Sum for keeping mum... ha!
The only crossing entry that feels at all forced is 32D: Star of the short-lived reality show "I Pity the Fool" (MRT), which was pretty much a gimme (one of the few in the puzzle, IMO!). Come on, HOTDIGGITY? Awesome.
But then, we get the remainder of the theme, which is missing letters off the "border" of the grid, which spell out different "doctors". 9D and 10D ([O]REO and [Z]EROS) give us Dr. Oz. 37A, 41A, and 45A: (CHE[W], BOOT[H], and BRAND[O] (1950s sex symbol, surprisingly not a woman!)) give us Dr. Who. 50D and 57D (SAGA[N] and LEN[O] - cute having them both be television hosts) give us Dr. No. And 29A, 33A, and 35A ([D]ROVES, [R]OPED, and [E]DEN) give us Dr. Dre. Four completely recognizable examples of 2- or 3-letter doctors. Well done. And fun to figure out where they would be, even though they're symmetrically placed.
1A: "Yep, you're right" (TRUEDAT): A+. That's what I'm talking about. We need more of this kind of excellent entries to start off puzzles. It was one of the last ones I got, but still.
And the rest of the grid has outstanding clues as well. A few that caught my attention:
- 1D: King's little cousin (TWIN) - really tricky.
- 4D: Non-P.C. add-on? (ESS). Not Mac.
- 11A: Boxer, e.g., for short (DEM). He means Barbara Boxer, democrat of California.
- 38D: Sweets alternative (HON). As in, names a waitress might call you in a diner.
- 42D: Stand outs? (ALIBIS) - my favorite of the puzzle. As in, ways you might get out of trouble while on the stand in a courtroom.
Excellent puzzle. Thumbs up all around.