I thought I was going to have a freakishly fine Friday time (for me) after I zipped through all but the southwest in about 12 minutes. For a brief moment, I was ONTOPOFTHEWORLD. As the finish drew NEARER, though, things began to look less ROSY. I ended up in a fight to the finish, MANOAMANO, with the squares in the southwest corner, and for a good five minutes it was not clear which of us had GODOT on our side.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here's a representation of what my southwest corner looked like at its worst:
VOTE (Up or down) for something)
WHODAT (Slangy response to a knock at the door)
BIB (Shirt protector)
USTEN (Hwy. through St. Paul, Minn.)
PARIS (Locale of the Ile de la Cite)
Remember good Old VWBUPT? (Prez with the same initials as an N.Y.C. landmark). They don't make 'em like that anymore. The "helpful" NYC hint in the clue didn't do a thing for me. Fortunately, when combined with other correct answers in the right half of the puzzle, I was eventually able to guess AGNES (___ Scott College), which prompted me to change 'paris' to SEINE. Once that S replaced the P I could finally see that we were looking for GWBUSH. Then, I was able to correct oHISEE to AHISEE because GoME isn't a word - that I know of.
Because the rest of the puzzle went so quickly, I didn't read all the clues and answers until I reviewed it for the review. Looking it over, there was much to enjoy, including a personal favorite, ONIONDIP. :)
There were two QMC's (Question mark clues) I especially liked: "Student who might take a crash course?" (ECONMAJOR) and Pick-up line? (HELLO).
But the real beauty was in the NQMC/cleverly ambiguous clues. I've made a list of my favorites:
"Bad marks for a high schooler" (ACNE)
"Boomer at a concert" (AMP)
"Parts of a record" (ARRESTS)
"Puts away" (JAILS)
Our esteemed readers will probably not be surprised to learn that I also I enjoyed the joke in the clue for 22A: "Yesterday, I ATE a clock. It was very time-consuming." Ha!
HELLO. The SW corner did my time in, too. I also tried vote instead of GAME and tEnDS instead of HEEDS. In other news, I dropped gRooveS in off of the clue for 42D instead of the much better (for crosses sakes) ARRESTS. But the rest went quickly. SPACESTATIONS was nice, but DEICER brings up bad travel memories, and OLIVEPITS is gross. And even though I don't like them that much, I'd rather have PHISH clued with the band somehow instead of the terrible scam practice. OK, I have to FLITS over to a beach fire at a neighbor's house now (in the paddleboat!).
The M of MOBTIE was the last letter I entered, too. And honestly, I only just now understood GAME. Whew! And HANGS (Chills) took me a long time to understand, too. I guess I'm just not very GAME for chillin' right now. Sheesh!
CALICOES is a weird spelling, but they're beautiful cats. And who isn't ANTITANK? NARYAONE, am I right?
That SW corner was my last to fall as well. I put paris in at first, but quickly changed it to SEINE due to unrecalled reasons. I also had tEnDS before switching to HEEDS. But fortunately I was able finally to see GWBUSH, and that's what gave me GAME to finish the puzzle. Great clues as mentioned in your excellent review.