Today's puzzle was really upbeat, which was a lovely thing to have show up on my iPad on a Friday afternoon. NICELYDONE, Mr. Charlson says. Let's DOAJIG! All of these happy items BODEWELL for a fun weekend in and around the house!
I'm going to hazard a guess here: Mr. Charlson wins a prize for the most Zs in a section of a puzzle ever. There are a full seven in the NE corner. If anyone thinks this section FIZZLESOUT, they are greatly mistaken. My favorite clue and answer in that section has to be 21A: Only three-letter word in Scrabble that requires both blank tiles (ZZZ). That's amazing! I loved that I figured it out with only the clue, and that answer broke open the whole section as you can imagine.
Mr. Charlson clearly loves Scrabble, given the two Vs, two Js, a K and an X elsewhere in the puzzle. Sadly we did not find a Q.
46A: It always goes to hell (RIVERSTYX) is an excellent clue.
60A: Study for the bar? (OENOLOGY) saves an otherwise not great answer. Meanwhile, a GINSLING would be a welcome addition to the weekend celebration.
In any case, Mr. Charlson certainly did not PLAYITSAFE. My only complaint (at the risk of sounding like a broken record) is that the puzzle is very sectioned off. The NW and SE corners are little mini-puzzles. Also, I will say, I do not take a GOLDENDELICIOUS. The name is a clear example of false advertising.
These little things aside, an excellent themeless for Friday.
My grandmother next door to me when I was growing up had a GOLDENDELICIOUS apple tree, and I liked picking them and eating them from there, but I tend to purchase either honeycrisp or gala apples for our daily eating. And seven Zs in the NE/E must surely be a record, as Colum mentions. Always happy to see PRECALC, especially on my birthday, as well as ORATORIO and NOVA. This played a little harder for me than a normal Friday, but no specific section gave me an inordinate amount of trouble. The JAFFA/JAINISM cross was my final entry.
This was a fun one. I second the praise on the RIVERSTYX clue. Really nice. And PIAZZA always makes me think of Huygens and his wife, and the story they tell of getting directions in Italy from an Italian who spoke no English. They speak no Italian, and all that my sister took away from the long explanation was that they should eventually come upon "una PIAZZA!"