Tough Friday going into the ACPT! If this doesn't act as a good warmup for puzzle solving, I'm not sure what will.
So many missteps along the way contributed to an extended solve. I started with guessing "bteam" for 1D: No first-stringer (SCRUB), and then "ahead" at 19A: Slightly leading (AHEAD). I took both of those out nearly immediately, opting for "usone" for 2D: It ends near Venice (THEPO). Boy, was I way off. I was thinking of US 66. My answer is entirely along the East Coast. Even when I solved the whole puzzle, I looked at the actual answer here and wondered what the P.O. was. Nope: it's the famous Italian river.
I broke in for realsies at 44D: Senator, e.g., in brief (NHLER), along with the gimmes LANA and NEVE. EYECONTACT went in, and I finally felt like I had a foothold. I couldn't believe 61A: Show first performed during 1994's Eurovision Song Contest (RIVERDANCE). Turns out it wasn't Ireland's official entry in the contest, but rather an interval act. In fact, Sweden won that year, but Ireland came in third, so good on you.
|Rutland Barrington as the original Pooh Bah|
I always mess up LEDS and LcDS. Fortunately, INTOODEEP was clear enough to correct the mistake. I very much liked 28A: Plastic keys? (TOYPIANO) and its subsequent gimme at 31D: Iconic 28-Across player (SCHROEDER). That made the entire SE corner much easier. 40D: Row house? (EMBASSY) would have been a tough get otherwise.
Knowing that Albert Camus was born in ALGERIA helped the NW corner as well. I originally had autoRACER, but was able to overcome that.
So a struggle all the way through, but a good one. 11:52.