This took me entirely too long, but this themeless puzzle was a work of art. Nine-letter entries stacked three high, in the NW and the SE. Twelve seven-letter entries (three in each corner). How does Byron Walden do it?
I loved the 15-letter answer to 8D: Say something to which people reply "Duh!" (state the obvious). I got it with only the first E in place. At the time, I thought that meant I'd breeze through the puzzle. It's not the only time I've been wrong about that.
Until about fifteen minutes ago, I was still missing about seven words. I walked away from it for a bit, came back and suddenly saw the answer to 43D: Rear (bring up). From there, the rest of the SE fell into place.
Things I didn't know:
44D: Eighth-century pope in office for 23 years (Adrian I). I wanted it to be Gregory. It fit...
45D: Breathing trouble (dyspnea). A new word for me.
47D: Birthplace of Yakov Smirnoff (Odessa), as well as 17A: Language of 47-Down (Ukrainian). I Googled to get Odessa, then was able to fill in the other.
60A: Noted Joffrey Ballet dancer of the 1980s (Ron Reagan). Had no clue.
Things I did not like:
2D: It's one funny thing after another (yukfest...or is it yuk fest). It sounds and looks ridiculous either way, but I'll overlook it because of the stacked answers up in that corner.
42A: Tabooed (forbad). That doesn't even sound like a word to me. Forbade, maybe. Okay, I just looked it up. It isn't the preferred past tense, but it's there.
Things I liked:
3D: Classic chocolate treat (Mars Bar). I'm into chocolate in a big way right now. Probably because I'm trying to eat less of it.
28A: Foul smoke (stogy). Great word, great clue.
35A: Like the Supremes and the Go-Go's (all female). I was thinking Girl Band, but that didn't fit, and Girl Bands didn't really fit the clue. I especially liked its placement in the center of the grid.
38D: Institutional investment (jumbo CD). I had the CD right away, but it took some time to get the rest. The SW corner was the last to fall into place.
56A: Devotee (fiend). How nice to see a reference to our dear friend. Al will be guest-blogging tonight, but Orange returns for the Sunday puzzle. I'm sure I speak for all of the guest bloggers when I say that it's been fun, but we're all anxious for her return.
34A: Rank informality? (cap'n). Another clever clue, and a word I haven't seen before.
5D: Narc tail? (otic). I like these word endings, especially when I get them.
11D: Question from the picked-upon (why me). Funny--and one of only a handful of gimmes that turned out to be right.
7D: Bearded perennials (irises). Mine are in bloom all over the back yard--purple, yellow, white, and some really exotic-looking blends. Gorgeous. I used to pick them to bring into the house, but they have a very unpleasant fragrance that I didn't notice outdoors.
Time to wrap this up. It's almost 11, and I have a full day tomorrow. As always, I'll start it on the deck, drinking coffee and watching the birds.