Either Mr. Ashwood-Smith is getting better at creating these puzzles, or I'm getting better at solving them. Or both. Could be both.
Well, it's the (once) dreaded quad stack puzzle. Quad plus two triples, making ten 15-letter answers. Since the meat of these types of puzzles are those long answers, it's worth looking at them a little more closely.
I'd say there are two fairly blah answers: those would be PURSUETHEMATTER and INTERESTRATECAP. The latter is saved somewhat by the clue: "It's of no concern to a usurer". And why is it of no concern? By definition, a usurer lends money at unreasonably high interest rates. So I liked that. Just the term itself feels like something a certified public accountant would say.
I'm sorry. I don't know how that got in there. The people responsible for the insertion of pictures have been sacked.
Anyway, the strong answers include IAPPRECIATETHAT, TOTALITARIANISM, ICOULDEATAHORSE, and TESTEDTHEWATERS. The others were in between. I'd say that's a good percentage for this kind of puzzle.
But, as always, the tradeoff is in the crosses, which have to suffer to get all that fun stuff into place. Impressive then, that the top section only has RET and partial ITS to complain about in my book. I liked the Baryshnikov reference for MISHA. 3D: It comes with strings attached (APRON) is a nice clue. No complaint about Bob KANE or the excellent STAX record label.
The bottom section is also very good, with only DET and partials AWIRE and ILET to detract. I like the tin anniversary trivia for TENTH, and the ALICE quote is marvelous and immediately recognizable.
The middle section, though. Oof. TETE, AAHS, RTES, ISSET, and MERS. SEIDEL is pretty obscure as well, but that and OCULI I can accept. I was impressed by NAUSEAM. And I do have to take a moment to appreciate 13D: Labor day highlight (CHILDBIRTH) - very nice! The lack of a capital in "day" should have given it away.
Overall I actually enjoyed it, so here's to you Mr. Ashwood-Smith.