As you can see from my time, I HAJ a little trouble with this one, particularly in the north east. And by little I mean AMOR than ILIKE. IKEpt waffling back and forth between "rnS" and DRS (E.R. figures) at the top of that corner. I wasn't helped in my deBATE by "'Transformers' antagonist" because I didn't know the answer, although now that I do (DECEPTICON), color me intrigued. Couple that with the rather odd REGALEMENT for "Wining and dining." Then, add the fact that I decided the answer to "Higher education?" at 14D had to start with SKy. I couldn't get anything to work with that "y," YETI persisted. DOPE.
Of course, in these difficult cases, the crosses ARE Supposed to lend a HAN. But, except for SHEEPLE (awesome!), the crosses were either also unknowns, or tricky for me. The hidden capital in "Total taken in?" (CEREAL) took me in but good. And sure, "Major suit" (CEO) SIMS EASEL now, but I was PEE DEE stuck there for a while. Both those clues are quite clever. "Real close?" (ISM) and "Ball club?" (DISCO) are also very nice.
The rest of the puzzle went pretty smoothly. Highlights include "Event for an enumerator" (CENSUS), "Partner for life" (LIMB), and Military assistants (AIDESDECAMP). I dropped in "layawayplan" at 57A, which, while miraculously having the right number of letters, kind of ignored the fact that the clue specifically mentioned help for ordering not just help affording furnishings (IKEACATALOG).
For all my GRUNTS and groans, though, I eventually bounced back like an EL[AS]HCAKE. OVAL all, it was a fun solve.