WELL, WELL, WELL, IF IT ISN'T ...
Greetings from sunny and lovely Albany, NY! Let me tell you, there's nothing quite so perfect as a late summer day in upstate New York. Some might tell you that you'd have to travel to some far off place, like, say, Italy in order to get a similar rush, but not me! No sirree. No sour grapes for this homebound NYT crossword puzzle review blogger. I haven't been green around the edges looking at the amazing Instagram posts from Horace and Frannie. Not me.
But on to more important things. Today's puzzle had me chuckling throughout. Mr. DiPietro takes standard phrases where the last syllable is a standard name, and reinterprets the newly parsed phrase as a descriptor of that person. Thus, 23A: [Well, well, well, if it isn't ...] the guy who vows to take his Stetson to the grave, gets BURYTHEHATCHET, where we reinterpret it as Mr. "Bury the hat" Chet. Hah!
The shorter examples of theme answers weren't quite as fun (DRONEDON, for example), but who wouldn't love SHORTSIGHTED reinterpreted as Mr. "Short sigh" Ted, that gentleman who stoically suppresses his exasperation? Or GROUNDNUTMEG, reinterpreted as Ms. "Ground nut" Meg, a football fan disgusted by today's air it out offenses? By the way, welcome to the new NFL season, where the Patriots have somehow ended up with one of the top superstar wide receivers out of thin air.
Most of the puzzle played relatively easily for me, with the exception of the middle, where I had the hardest time. In part this was due to putting in Satire at 69D: Parody (SENDUP), a nice example of using the ambiguity of a word that can be both a noun or a verb to misguide. Also nice is 48D: Court V.I.P. (TENNISPRO) - I was stuck on a court of law here. I finally broke in when I got 61D: Swerves back (ZAGS - although I left the A out for a while), and the rest came into focus.
I'd like to draw particular attention to the four pairs of 10-letter answers in each corner. They're really outstanding. HESDEADJIM is a fun memory. It was said in those exact words four times, and once as "She's dead, Jim." 73D: Shade for a field worker? (FARMERSTAN) - excellent. 74D: "Drawin' a blank here" (IGOTNOTHIN) - also very good, although we are definitely playing fast and loose by allowing the last G to drop, even with the example in the clue. And COMETOPAPA, DRUNKATHON, and THERIDDLER are also top answers.
Finally, I'd like to acknowledge that I was once again taken for a ride by 55D: Diamond brackets? (DEES). When will I ever learn?