Boy, this grid looks weird, doesn't it? I love seeing that circle in the middle, but I can't help wishing there were some way to enter something into it! Not that it would have made sense here, but still...
Arrowed answers today need to be answered "in a roundabout way." I think the arrows gave away a bit too much, maybe, but it still took me a little while to figure out that I had to take the first exit in the rotary rather than driving all the way through and continuing straight ahead.
|This is TOLE. Who knew?|
I think all five theme answers are strong. SPROUTWINGS (33A: Become angelic, figuratively) was my favorite.
And there's lots of interesting fill material, too. BRACERO (54A: Seasonal migrant worker from Mexico) is nice and topical, what with all the immigration noise lately, and THRASH, STROBE, BOTCH, OOLITES (Lucky I was just at a gem & mineral show a week or two ago!), and ROOFTOP are all quite good. I am not too familiar with the term LACKWIT (23D: Blockhead), but I like both it and its clue, so that's all good.
I was tripped up by 16A: President in the 2009 film "Invictus." (MANDELA). I entered "Freeman," but they wanted the president portrayed, not the portrayer of the president. My error came just before that, at 15A: Patsy (SCHNOOK). I entered SCHmOOK, thinking, apparently, that it might be an alternate spelling of "schmuck." 9D: Old channel that showed "Hee Haw" didn't help, because Hee Haw originally aired on CBS, and then it was in syndication, and Wikipedia lists it being on TNN from 1996-1997. Anyway, I should have known that TmN wasn't any network at all, I guess. Gotta be more careful!
There's a little glue (SIMI and KEA are my least favorite, but why? I usually like geographical answers...), but not too much, and not nearly enough to diminish the fun of a good ol' crazy Thursday puzzle. Great start to The Turn!