Today's theme might have been funny, given that the inauguration is tomorrow, if it weren't for the fact that a CHECKEREDPAST (36A: Liability for a political candidate ... as depicted four times in this puzzle?) is not, in fact, a liability at all. It is, rather, a boon, in the incoming administration.
Other entries that put one in mind of the incoming junta are SMUTTY, HORRIFIC, PLAYAT, NOT, and possibly TOUPEES.
STEEPLECHASES (14D: They present hurdles) was unexpected, TOPOTHEMORNIN (15D: Cork opener?) was hilarious, and I think that the clue for PAS (35D: They bring speakers into the classroom, briefly) was brilliant. Even with the "briefly."
I don't have much energy today, because earlier my wife closed on the sale of her childhood home. We have been working long hours for the past several weeks to clean it out, and tonight she and I went out for drinks. Not to celebrate, exactly, because the occasion is more sad than celebratory, but to mark an ending.
So anyway, I don't feel much like saying that TEATREE (which grows, apparently, in Queensland, Australia) seems an odd entry, or that I'm tired of words like ARTIEST (16A: Most pretentious), or even that GUSSET (63A: Cloth insert) was a welcome surprise. I just. can't. even. As the kids are saying.
1A: Blows (SHOCKS) gets a B, because it reminds one of the "thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to," and that's just the kind of mood I'm in. And speaking of that, conscience, unfortunately for you, does not make coward enough of me not to publish such a self-indulgent "review."
See you tomorrow. Horace out.
My thoughts are with you both. You know you can always ask me to fill in.
This is an odd puzzle! I like that the P-A-S-T rotates around the checkers in each spot. Weirdly, that makes the 5-letter words that connect each Purina symbol in the pattern A___S or S___A.
I wouldn't have thought of R-rated movies as SMUTTY. Wouldn't that be more X-rated? Loved TOUPEES, and I'm proud I got THECOMETS quickly.
Took me a bit longer than you two combined, as it turns out. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough of the answers for the P-A-S-T boxes to figure out the theme early on. OXTAILS is gross, but at least it crosses SEX, and I, too, got THECOMETS off of the clue. I got OLDAGE (44D "The most unexpected of all things that happen to a man," per Leon Trotsky) with only two crosses; hopefully I'll be surprised with it some day. TELEPORT is great, and I even liked YESLETS. Mmmm...ROMANO. As I write this, it's Friday morning and I look forward to seeing John Cleese tonight at the Hanover. Should be an interesting show.