When I saw the title of today's puzzle, I thought to myself, "OK, Mr. Zhou, this had better be good!" But he was not (I don't think) talking about his crossword, but about the piece of art that he is paying homage to within the puzzle.
|C'est une pipe!|
And speaking of reality, this is a really good puzzle. I'm starting to think maybe the title was a brag, because that pipe in the middle looks perfect, and I just love that PIPELINE is included as theme material. Apt! And I like to think that the face in the middle of the puzzle is meta-theme material, a sort of a "ceci n'est pas un visage" kind of thing. Really nice.
You'd expect that for all that beauty in the theme, there'd be some compromises in the fill, but I don't have a lot to complain about. The old-style REATA (52A: Dogie catcher) got a cute clue, and I also enjoyed the clues for AROMAS (56A: Invisible lures), PUPU (37A: Hawaiian for "appetizer") (Did not know that), and METAPHOR (33D: Something that shouldn't be mixed). I didn't know either LODI or OLIVET, but I was able to drop in GAIUS (24D: Julius Caesar's first name) and TROI (90D: Half-Betazoid "Star Trek" character), so I guess we've all got our different things.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this one. What a nice way to start my week of reviews!