Today's unthemed puzzle is by Randolph Ross, and so is the syndicated puzzle du jour. How cool is that!
This one really wanted to kick my butt. Three horizontal stacks of eleven, top and bottom. Three vertical stacks of ten, left and right.
My big break was a gimme on 1A: 1971 hit with the lyric "He danced for those at minstrel shows" (Mr. Bojangles). That song touches me as much now as it did then, especially the line about his dog.
It was very exciting to get the next long across, 15A: Film in which Ford was president (Air Force One). I spent a couple of minutes trying to figure out when Gerald Ford was in a movie. I'm sure I wasn't alone there.
Another big break occurred in the southern stack. 59D: "__ who?" (sez) really opened things up there. I knew we were looking at zones for 63A: Protected areas, but it took a minute to figure out safety. That gave me 48D: After-dinner request (decaf), which led to 48A: Most of Mauritania (desert). With a couple of letters in place, I got 56A: Oscar winner between Tom Hanks and Geoffrey Rush (Nicolas Cage). Omigod, I so have the hots for that man.
I made the mistake of reading the clue for 61A: Subject of "The Double Helix" aloud. Don hollered out "DNA," but I got molecule on my own. We are quite a team...and he's okay with my having the hots for unattainable men.
I was also stumped temporarily on 32A: Grammy winner Blige. I knew she was Mary, but I completely spaced that she was Mary J.
Here's where I really made a mess of things. 13D: "Buy now," e.g. (broker's tip) was originally (in my puzzle, anyway) sales pitch. That gave me not sleep for 20A: Have insomnia, instead of the correct answer, lie awake. I don't remember the mistakes beyond those two, but there were several.
I confess that the only way I dragged myself out of that mess was to Google 12D: Girl group with the 1986 #1 hit "Venus" (Bananarama). Sorry, my loyalty is to the version by Shocking Blue.
I love Miles Davis but was initially stumped by 26A: Group on Miles Davis's "Birth of the Cool," e.g. (nonet). Ah, yes, the number in a group, not a group that was playing with him.
Ooh, and I just love 29D: Malice aforethought (evil intent). Both the clue and the answer are wickedly delicious!
Also delicious is 44A: McIntosh cousins (winesaps). Great for munching, great for applesauce, great for pies. Mmmmm.
I have had it (40A: Seen enough) for tonight. See you tomorrow.