When I see the name Kameron Austin Collins attached to a Saturday NYTX, I get a little worried because I know he will MAKEME struggle. Today, however, I thought maybe I could HOPEFOR an easier time, when I guessed SOREspot right off the bat for "What may need to be kneaded," and then dropped in OMITS (Drops) and ELlie (____ Gilbert, "The Vampire Diaries" protagonist) (I never read these, it's really ELENA), and then strawHUT (Cabana) (BEACHHUT).
So, obviously, off to a great start.
Outside of the NW I had better luck, dropping in HAMOPERATOR (Radio amateur), and then TOHELEN off the O, and SPITITOUT ("Just say what you're going to say!") from the T. NOUS (More than just moi) was easy for this French major, and CREATUREFEATURE brought back memories of Channel 38 on weekend afternoons. It was "Creature Double Feature," and I never watched any of them, but the commercials were always on while I was watching something else, like "The Three Stooges" or "The Munsters."
ALLEYCAT (Street prowler) and MASSGENERAL were welcome gimmes, but OREN Ishii and ROYCOHN took quite a few crosses.
This is one of those puzzles that, when you look back over it, you think everything looks so obvious. TRIALRUNS is so clearly the answer to "Tests," for example, but when I first read "Tests," I read it as a verb. Ay, there's the rub, eh?
Well, not all of it is obvious, I guess. I've never heard of FISACOURT (Govt. body that approves warrant requests for spies), and I have no idea what it means to REVET an embankment. And how many times did I try SOpS and SOtS at 1-Down (SOGS (Soaks))? Many, many times. I spent nearly ten full minutes putting things in and taking them out again in the NW corner, until finally I figured out CTRL KEY (part of some shortcuts) and everything came together.
We love a Saturday challenge, and Mr. Collins is among the best at delivering just that. This was a satisfying struggle full of trivia (CAMBODIA (Country that celebrates the new year ("Choul Chnam Thmey") in April) and MARINER (Member of the only M.L.B. team never to have played in a World Series)) and clever clues ("Trace evidence?" (STENCIL) and "Shaded from the sun" (TAN)).
Satisfying, challenging, and fun. The best kind of puzzle.