I'd never say that Karen Tracey's puzzles are easy, but I don't recall having this much difficulty with one.
And I don't recall having seen so many Zs in a puzzle. That's pretty impressive. But where did Karen come up with some of these answers? I was clueless...and answerless...and had to resort to Dogpile to get some of them.
19A: Where the African Union is headquartered (Addis Ababa). Maybe the rest of you knew this, and I'm just underinformed.
20D: Mideastern news source (Al Jazeera).
34D: Co-star of Broadway's "Fanny" (Ezio Pinza). Never heard of him. Well, no wonder. I was just a couple years old when he died. More about him here.
I knew the crossing Zs at 36A: Biographical subject of the Best Picture of 1936 (Florenz Ziegfeld), but that didn't help me get 20D or 34D.
Other Z crossings include:
27A: Fictional salesman of '80s ads (Joe Isuzu). Have no recollection of that at all. According to this site/video clip, he's everybody's favorite pathological liar and car spokesman. I did, however, know that Z cross...29D: __ Corporation (jewelry retail giant) (Zale).
59A: Relief pitcher Armando (Benitez).
Very few gimmes. 18A: Tablets site (Mt. Sinai), 23A: Slicer locale (deli), 48A: Per __ (diem), 52A: 1988 chart-topping country album (Reba), 1D: Misses at fiestas: Abbr. (Srtas), 12D: Like a well-kept lawn (manicured),14D: Number of wives of Enrique VIII (seis), and 53D: First name in motorcycling (Evel).
Some excellent fill...many that I was able to flesh out with a few letters in place.
1A: Whole __ (shebang). Wanted nine yards.
8A: Place on a Monopoly board (St. James). Best clue of the puzzle.
17A: Line from a scam artist (trust me). Whenever someones says that to me, I don't.
34A: It's hard to fail (easy A). No such thing, IMOO. There were always students who'd get a D or F, even if they showed up on occasion and took the tests. But it's another great clue/answer.
42A: Tap type (soft shoe). Silly me...I was thinking beer tap.
61A: Substitute for some snack foods (Olestra). We were part of the test market for the Lay's potato chips with Olestra. They tasted great. Fortunately for me, they didn't cause the gastrointestinal distress experienced by some.
62A: McDonald's mascot before Ronald (Speedee). I vaguely remember this guy. I tried to find a picture of him, but the only one I can find is on this blog. One of my claims to fame (and it isn't much) is that my junior high best friend is married to Ronald McDonald...well, one of them. He quit his full-time job as an electrician to make more money as a part-time Ronald McDonald. Now he's full time and making really big bucks. He's a better Ronald than the national one, IMOO.
Interesting to see a horde of nomads, clued at 2D and 6D, respectively. Other really good words include:
3D: Exercise of a sort (etude).
8D: Mutualism (symbiosis).
30D: Hair salon option (updo). Here are some interesting ones.
We have two answers clued the same...those always throw me for a minute or so. Jambalaya appears at both 32D (olio)...recently demoted in Rex Parker's Pantheon...and 58A (grab bag).
T-strap makes another appearance at 44D (Pump alternative). Clever clue. Probably intended to make us think gasoline pump?
And is this the debut of Viagra, appearing at 24D (Sex therapist's suggestion)? Does this really pass the New York Times breakfast table test? Just asking...
Here's the completed grid.
And I'll see you tomorrow. Ta-ta! (9D: Cry before disappearing).