An eleven-word word ladder today, with first, middle, and last anchor points giving ROLL CALL VOTE. Word ladders are kind of cool, but they make for kind of an anti-climactic puzzle. Nobody likes seeing "Fifth word ..." as a clue, and to have it happen over and over again is, well, not the greatest. Still, the ladder of ROLL, POLL, PALL, PALM, CALM, CALL, MALL, MALE, MATE, MOTE, VOTE is a pretty nice stunt. It's all symmetrical too, which I guess it would have to be... so let's just appreciate that for a minute.
OK, now what about the fill? For once I was not fooled by 21A: Start to instigate? (LETTERI). Full disclosure, I had the L from REEL, which helped. Nor was I stumped for very long by 31D: Source of multicolored Maos (WARHOL), but I needed a lot of crosses for ACACIA (30D: Gum arabic source). Who knew?
Frannie enjoyed finding some ROYALBLOOD in her family tree a while back (though, I think it was on the wrong side of the sheets, as it were), and LOVERSLEAP is a nice evocative term. I didn't love seeing CHOKECOLLAR right there in the middle, and SEMIARID is, well, a little SEMIARID.
The "name down the center" (well, near-center, as this is a 16 column puzzle) continues today with the first name of artist WILLEM de Kooning. I'm a fan of art in general, and de Kooning is a fine practitioner of same, so thumbs up there. How long can they keep it up, one wonders?
In the SW, the entries IVANI and DANDD look odd one on top of the other, and I applaud the audacity. Overall, a word ladder on a Thursday is always going to be a bit of a let-down, but I can still find things to enjoy.