Here's a lovely themeless puzzle for a Saturday. There are two 15-letter tentpoles that are very strong, and a nice smattering of interesting fill and challenging clues. The downside is very small, just a few 3-letter entries that I raise an eyebrow at (NOS, EDS) but can't really complain about too much.
I'm proud to say that my first entry came at 4D: Daughter and half sister of Oedipus (ISMENE). Knowledge gained in high school! I stage managed our school's production of Antigone, by Jean Anouilh, and something stuck. It didn't help me that much, though. I had to come back to the NW later.
I gained another entry with BALSA, which gave me ENIGMA (nice clue with "Tough nut to crack"). Filling in that area allowed me down into the SW corner. I like 51A: Rollback events (EBBTIDES) - that was definitely unexpected. 54A: Squeaker (CLOSEONE) is also a nice clue. I like that ODOR crosses SEWERRAT - those two clearly go together.
With Hope's help, I figured out GRAVITYSRAINBOW, which opened up the NW. 1A: Rugby rival of Harvard (MCGILL) is a seriously roundabout way of getting to that college's name. I give it a B+, mostly for the nice collection of consonants in the corner there. 1D: Unhand or disarm? (MAIM) is somewhat unpleasant.
I moved to the NE next, coming off of BOOZE and BSIDE to get 7D: One who goes on to try to conquer the Universe? (MISSUSA). That's a few too many words for the joke, I think. Maybe "A queen who can no longer be Trumped?" Too soon?
MICKEYDS is apparently appearing in the NYT crossword for the first time today, so kudos there. I tried to fit McDonalds in, but there weren't enough spaces. I also tried to put Lebron where DURANT fit: the right number of spaces, the wrong number of scoring crowns (he's only won once, in 2007-8).
Love love love YOUREDARNTOOTIN, especially the dropped G at the end. That's a wonderful 15-letter answer. I also enjoyed 27D: Front-and-center section (VIOLAS) for many reasons, but the foremost being that I was thinking in terms of the audience, rather than those on stage. 35D: Aid in studying a culture (TESTTUBE) is clever, but I think it's off somewhat. You see cultures in Petri dishes, not in testtubes.
55A: Lift one's spirits? (IMBIBE) is awesome.
I was hung up in the NW for at least 1/2-hour. AIRSEA, MAVEN and MCGILL came slowly, so CIMARRON and GRAVITYSRAINBOW (both unknown to me) were not possible. The remainder went pretty smoothly, though, even the lovely VELDT and the great BOGARTS. I, too, loved IMBIBE and VIOLAS. Too bad that INANDOUT wasn't clued with the burger place since it's right under MICKEYDS. I agree about TESTTUBE...no good. Other than that, nice Saturday.
VIOLAS gives me occasion to run out a joke.
Q: Why do so many people take an instant dislike to the viola?
A: It saves time.
I got hung up in the SW, where "squeaker" (CLOSEONE) and "Repute" (ODOR) took me for-ever to see.
Lots of great stuff in here. BAUBLE, IMBIBE, BOGARTS, SURESURE...