Figuring out this puzzle's trick did not come easily! I failed to see DEF[ORE]ST for the trees. Only when I had three of the four theme answers figured out and in place, did I begin to see the pattern. Trouble is, when I got to the fourth one, I stupidly focused on trying to make the same pattern work at 4D instead of at 3D where it belonged. HELLA derp. I had entered FORENSICS (Field of "CSI") very early on in the solve, before I knew there was a trick and I never looked at it again; I just kept trying to get into SHUL.
It took me some time to figure out what was meant by the revealer HANDSDOWN (Easily ... and a hint to four answers in this puzzle), even when I had it and two of the theme answers, which I first entered as rebi. Two examples were not enough to make me notice that LONG (EVAL[ONG]ORIA) and SURE (TREAS[URE]MAP) can both be paired with the word HAND and that they went DOWN the grid while the rest of the answer kept going across. Nice trick. I needed a third theme answer to see the pattern, but I was in a real pickle in the 29A/D-al area because I didn't know either "Pro wrestling star John" (CENA) or "'Wisest and justest of all the centaurs'" in Greek myth (CHIRON). I did eventually remember SEAHAG (One of Popeye's foes), which lead me to AVE (where I had originally entered rte), which helped me finally see ENVI[ROn]S. Phew! My only TEENY quibble is that it's too bad the across answers couldn't still be words on their own.
I had a few other trouble spots. I tried spelling tada with an "h" (tadah) to get it to fit at 23D ("Voilà") where THERE belongs. I'm also still not sure in/on which kind of court you find an ESTOP. Law, basketball, other? And are ATODDS and ATLAW synonyms? :)
I liked SPANG for "Smack-dab". I haven't heard that in years. We usually said spang on. ELCHEAPOS is a nice entry. I liked FORENSICS at first, but my feelings changed a bit on that one after the above-releated fiasco. CENSURE is also a great word, although less good as an actual experience. I also liked KEYIN (Record as data), although, personally, I prefer extracting data to keying it in whenever possible, but sometimes one has no choice. Also, this sure is the week for self-referential clues! I feel like I've got their number now, though four days in. I entered ESS (Self starter?) at 40A like a champ. "Capital of Colombia" (PESO) didn't fool me today, either. "Go downhill in a hurry?" for (SKI) was also cute.
|DEWAR Flask photo: LepoRello (Wikipedia)|
And last, but not least, yesterday's final down answer was WET (Dampen) and today's was DRY (Having less vermouth than the norm). Fun!