Today I am grateful for Friday, both for the end of the work week and the arrival of our two days of themeless puzzles. The work week really wasn't that bad, so I don't know what I have to complain about. But still, it's nice to have the weekend rolling in.
Let's start out with a really wonderful non-QMC (question-mark clue) at 23D: Exercise done on a bench (ETUDE). That's perfect. I really had no idea what they were getting at, even when I had __UDE in place for a while. Add to that 22D: Person in a rush (MINER) right next door. Lovely!
This grid is really well put together. We've gotten used to the stacks of long answers offset by one square, but they usually go across rather than down. Those three answers are crossed by four 12-letter answers very smoothly. In case you were wondering, MARTINSHEEN played Josiah Bartlet on The West Wing, and JFK in a television miniseries.
How excellent is LIEIDLE right over LESSSALT? And I love MISSAL and BANYAN. I did not know VIREO, but figured it out despite a moment of concern looking at _IP and wondering what letter to put in there ("zip pass?" "tip pass?").
And the only way to get the Italian waterway into a crossword puzzle is to put the full RIVERPO in place.
My only complaint is ITA, a very odd partial ending for crossword puzzle experts. Otherwise this was an excellent Friday and a fine continuation of the turn.