Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. I'd been (slightly) complaining that this week's puzzles were on the easy side. Well, this themeless was a great challenge with some delightful surprises in it.
It's rare that I'm able to get my first entry at 1A this late in the week. But 1A: Patron for the desperate could only be STJUDE, the patron saint of lost causes. I give that an A-, the best 1A of the month so far. I was able to get JEANAUEL and THEODORE off of that, which led me to think that perhaps I was going to make quick work of this puzzle as well. However, things sputtered to a stop.
I've never heard of CHENIN blanc, and my error came at the cross with DIETH. There I'd put in DoETH, and couldn't quite get why ENDS would be a synonym. Perhaps, I thought, it's some sort of modern slang I've not come across. I also couldn't get TREEHUGGING until I have just about every cross. The clue ("extremely green") is open to multiple different interpretations - jealous? new to?
I actually put bits and pieces in each corner before the puzzle finally came together. As you might imagine, when I got SCHMALTZ, and ZELDAFITZGERALD leaped out at me (an answer I did not know from the clue), that helped somewhat. But it was breaking the NE that really got things going.
I had put in 12D: Good name for a girl who procrastinates? (TAMARA), an old knee-slapper, but still raised a smile here, along with SNARE and DYAD. On my second go through, I put in UVEA ("Pigmented layer" just shouted out anatomical answer), and then saw 7A: Ones seeking maximum exposure? (NUDISTS). I'd thought about "tanners" earlier. Finally I got ISLAND (a nice misdirection there), and then LOVESEAT.
But how about 17A: A priest, not a beast (ONELLAMA)? That's awesome, and definitely wins best clue-answer in my book. I almost wish it had been clued: A priest ... or a single beast, so it could be parsed as "one-L lama" or "one llama". Still, when I finally figured it out, I laughed out loud.
Now I was able to see the beginning of 15D: Getting totally confused, idiomatically (LOSINGTHEPLOT), as well as NONCITIZENS. 24A: Stocking stuffer (SANTA) was so literal! MICHELLEWIE came next, finally helping me finish the SE. I'd had nItwIt in at 52A: Twerp (WIENIE), which had slowed me down. I bet Huygens would enjoy 33D. When is he coming back, BTW?
And finally, the SW. I'd already put in much there, having gotten AMFM from the clue, and MARON from Hope's obsession with his podcast, WTF. In fact, I had everything except the last two letters of SINESTRO (never heard of it, but Green Lantern is not an interest) and PROPOSAL, which I just couldn't see. Once I got MAGICCHARMS (I'd had MAGICCreaMS for a few seconds - WTF indeed), the rest fell into place.
And ... SCENE.