As Monty Python once said: "It's not easy to pad these shows out to thirty minutes, you know." The same could be said of making a good Monday puzzle. But Mr. Gulczynski has done so today.
First of all, the theme. Even as I filled in the various answers, I had no idea what they had to do with each other. Then: the revealer. NONSTARTER. That's a nice twist. DEADBATTERY wins for most unexpected interpretation, but the other three are very nice as well. LASTLAP is the most ludicrous - by definition it is very far removed from the starting lap!
But there's a lot to like in the fill as well. 1A: Ten to one, for one (RATIO) is a nice math term, with a mildly challenging clue. I thought "odds" at first, although I think that would be written as "ten-to-one", right? In any case, I give it a B. My first confident answer was RPM.
OKCORRAL is a fun way to exit that claustrophobic NW corner. As I completed that area, I couldn't help but feel a slightly LIBERAL leaning subtext. Who's being CRUEL recently? And who is it many of us are hoping LOSES by getting fewer votes? Well, okay, perhaps it's more of a subtext in my own mind that's coloring how I interpret the answers...
ARTDECO and PAGEBOY felt fresh, TENAM and OXEYE less so. But any puzzle that ends with RYE is a winner for me. You know it's my drink of choice, and what I will be partaking of Wednesday at 9 PM, for certain.
P.S. Hah! In reading Mr. Gulczynski's blog, it turns out my political interpretation was completely on target!
Excellent review. I'm going to watch for this Gulczynski character from now on. I loved his 9/3 themeless, and this, as you say, is a fine Monday. I read his blog, too (found through XWORDINFO.COM) and loved this portion:
"It depends on what solvers think. (And since it’s a Monday puzzle, many solvers probably won’t think anything, because they will speed-solve it and be done with it, before they even have a chance to process it.)
But overall, I’m pretty pleased with this one. It’s nothing earth-shattering; it’s likely going to be forgotten a few days from now, but that’s fine. If solvers think, “Hey, nice little Monday,” and then get on with their days – that’s all I’m really going for."
What's not to like? (Except maybe for the comma after "it" in the first paragraph.) With that humility and self-awareness, plus the Trump-bashing, he's quickly entered my top ten list of constructors!
WALLOP, DEFRAY, ADDLE… it's all good.
And he went on and on about how he's never heard "CSPOT" before, and yeah, it probably ought to have been c-note, but CSPOT is certainly understood.
CSPOT is fine by me, especially since it crosses with CAAN (less so for the plural CPUS cross), and RATIO should be at least an A-, IMO. DEFRAY is a nice, meaty answer for a Monday, as is SENECA (surprised Horace didn't mention that one in his above list). TARTS could have been clued a bit more blue-ey, and I did not love FLUS (odd plural) crossing NFL (dumb sports). Nice little Monday.