Oof, I hit the jackpot. Following yesterday's smooth and fun Friday themeless, I open today's to find it's by Mr. Ezersky, fiendish and challenging constructor. And look at that grid, with huge chunky corners. I went a long way through clues, to 24D, actually, before I got an answer I was solid enough on to put in.
That initial ENERGY got me a little way into it, before I sputtered out again. 38A: Pippi Longstocking feature (PIGTAIL) could only really be one thing, and 32D: Rabbit ears (TVANTENNA) was a welcome sight as well. But I foundered on other answers, including an incorrect guess at 47D: Go from E to F (FUELUP), where I tried FaiLat. Nice try, but I don't think teachers actually give out E grades, do they?
So after putting in a few other entries like PETUNIA and DERE (not so much a fan of that), I found myself once more in the NW corner. This time I took a chance on UCLA, and then tried ____LOG for 17A: Duraflame product (FIRELOG), which allowed me to put in IHOPE, and then ZYGOTE.
Now I could see 1A: Questions of surprise? (POPQUIZ) That's fun stuff, and led to the corner being finished. Out of there, I finally got 20A: Literally, "one who is sent off" (APOSTLE), which nestled nicely against ETHICS (at least I hope so).
EMIRATI, OILGLUT, and TANK made a nice little set of answers in the NE. Also having MASALAS near SRI seemed to make sense. A little less encouraging was TAXING, PRICES, CARTAGE, and PETFEES down the SE corner.
A good challenging Saturday is always welcome. It's very satisfying when the last square is filled in. So all I can say to Mr. Ezersky is NICEONE!
This week, Frannie will be taking the reviews back. Perhaps we've created a new and improved cycle of reviewers? If I get to follow Horace from now on, it relieves me of the pressure of living up to Frannie's shining workplay!