Well, I'm up, so I figured I'd get a headstart on February, it being such a long month and all. So many days! So many reviews! What's a blogger to do?
I guess, start by doing the crossword puzzle. Which remains one of the best stress relievers, even if just for a few minutes.
And this is an outstanding puzzle to start the month. It is entirely befitting the strange class of puzzles that fall on Wednesdays for the NYT. Just like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. Although, TBH, most boxes of chocolates tell you exactly what you're going to get.
The NW corner was not altogether promising, though. 1A: Exoskeleton, e.g. (ARMOR) gets a B- for the interest of the cluing. ROTH (my first confident answer) and SOAMI are less exciting. But then I hit RIPOSTE, and we were off like a well-timed zinger!
HAROLDANDKUMAR got me to thinking about diversity in the NYT xword. See, Harold is Asian (played by John Cho, later of Sulu fame) and Kumar is subcontinental Asian (played by Kal Penn). Was this puzzle meant to be a balm for fevered liberal minds? Let's see... LAMA, also Asian (one-L)... PAPA, blue-skinned... USNAVY, latino character from Lin-Manuel Miranda's first hit musical, In The Heights... Yes! Let's go with it!
But actually, what we're dealing with is the extremely clever interpretation of Mark Anthony's speech from Julius Caesar: "Friends, Romans, countrymen... LENDMEYOUREARS." See, each long answer is an example of those three groups. The Romans are represented by the PRAETORIANGUARD, while countrymen (at least for us US citizens) are represented by the FOUNDINGFATHERS.
And we still have room for WENTYARD and STPETER. I also enjoyed 28D: Page in a Hollywood film (ELLEN) for the hidden capital.