It appears to be true that the more you do crossword puzzles, the better you get at it. Don't judge by my time - I don't know that I'm a lot faster, but I am a lot finisher. J My supporting example from today's puzzle is 8A. Person typically taking Torts and Contracts. I finally just dropped in the oft-appearing-but-never-yet-met-with-in-real-life ONEL.
To my way of thinking, this grid has a very odd structure. It looks a little like Swiss cheese with holes all over the place. It allows four coast-to-coast answers (as I recently heard them described) without stacks. I liked the north-to-south 15's quite a bit. I am familiar with the movie ALIENVSPREDATOR, but I had no idea it was a hit, so it took me a while to figure that one out.
Asimov joined the sci-fi material with his NOVELETTE "The Bicentennial Man" and 34A. About 3 14 light-years (PARSEC) is a nice companion answer.
We ended up with quite a few abbreviations (BSS, LLDS, LED, CLI (does that count as an abbreviation?)) and oddities in the puzzle's "threes," with the most far out maybe being 5D. Part of the conjugation for "avoir." One has to go pretty deep into the verb matrix for that one. I could scarce believe my eyes when I realized what was wanted there.
I am on the road all day today, so I can't look stuff up the way I normally would, but stuff I would have looked up includes today's 1A. BARBACK (Tavern assistant) (grade: D) and RUNAGATES (3A. Fugitives). I'm assuming these are both valid words because I have a lot of faith in Mr. Shortz, but with any less an authority at the helm, I would be extremely dubious, especially about RUNAGATES. As we say out east, weirt. In the category of uninspiring clue/answer pairs, I have to mention 43A. "You ain't ____!" (LYIN). Mmnh. I also won't be able to put a picture up today due to lack of Internetz, but maybe I'll get one up tomorrow. Watch this space. J
Horace singled out 12A. Literary reference (ALLUSION) as fun fill. Did anyone else (Huygens, I'm looking at you) think 53A. Hot times? (NOONS) was a real ATTENTIONGETTER, especially when grouped with ADULTERY, or is that just me?