Just yesterday in xwordinfo.com Jeff Chen mentioned that he was once cautioned against using "stair steps" of black squares around three letter words, as the puzzle can be made to feel a little tight. Today, however, it's almost nothing but stair steps (!), leading up to (or down to) the theme answers of STAIRCASEWIT (17A: Cleverness thought of too late to use) (I like this phrase, and I feel like I've heard it before, but it's not something I ever think of), ESCALATORCLAUSE (30A: Flexible contract provision) (not familiar to me), and ONTHEUPANDUP (42A: Straight-shooting) (my favorite).
1A: Braided Jewish bread (CHALLAH) - B+. Who doesn't enjoy a challah?
Favorite: 26A: Place to find a pen and teller (BANK) - Nice elevation of an average word.
Least: REUNES. ASYLA was also in the running.
Mr. Hawkins makes good use of the long downs today, getting in such fine words as HESITANT (7D: Wondering "Should I? Should I not?"), the full ETCETERA with its fun clue "Latin phrase used listlessly?," FROWNED UPON (10D: Discouraged), and the disturbing ROCKOPERA. And in the small stuff, SCRY (27D: Foretell the future by using a crystal ball) isn't something you hear very often. For some reason, I like that better than REUNES and ASYLA, but as I write this I can no longer tell if that is justified. It really is just a shortening of descry, isn't it? Hmmm...
Overall, I like this one, I guess. I'm not sure just how to describe it, so I'll use one of Amy Reynaldo's phrases - "Tuesdays gonna tues." That about sums it up.