Well, Dear Reader, while yesterday I defended a stunt, today I will do the opposite. Such is the prerogative of the critic, I suppose. It's almost obligatory that we "Not stay neutral" (TAKESIDES) (would have preferred "takeaside").
The theme just didn't work for me. There was another puzzle recently where doubled letters like we see today were given a reason to be joined together. But this time, JOINEDATTHEHIP refers only to the Across answers, and we're left with nine misspelled Downs. Oh, I suppose I could stretch my mind and embrace the stretched words, but I get little satisfaction from the effort.
It would be easier to ACCEPPTS, perhaps, if I weren't also forced to accept INANEST, COXAE, PIKA, and SILEX. And when I'm already in a bad mood, I'm more prone to argue that a PITACHIP (Little dipper?) isn't really any smaller than most other chips ... and then the fun of the QMC is lost.
One clue I did enjoy was "Closest living relatives of whales" (HIPPOPOTAMUSES). We saw a Nova one time that explained how whales (and other marine mammals) came out of the water, lived on land, and then after some evolution, went back into the water to live there again. It showed how whales swim with an up and down motion that mirrors the body motion of a running animal, rather than the side to side swimming of fish who never walked on land. So cool.
Anyway, I probably should have taken in a big breath of AIIR and then EXHHALED before starting this review, then maybe it wouldn't have been so TEPPID. Here's hoping thou HAST found the puzzle more pleasing.