We have another fine example of a challenging puzzle featuring two triple-stacks of 15-letter words, with a whole slew of challenging vocabulary to ramp up the difficulty. Often, having several stacks of long words can actually make a puzzle slightly easier, since you can solve large chunks of the puzzle at a time once you figure out those big words. This puzzle resists quick solving, though, due to rather difficult middle and side sections which aren't very open, and require a bit of tough solving.
If this puzzle 1A (LEAVES A BAD TASTE), it may be due to some of those more obscure little words hiding here and there, including:
37D: Relating to heraldry (ARMORIAL),
30A: French study, e.g. (SALLE), and
21A Expert in ancient law (LEGIST).
If you keep at it, though, 17A (BY TRIAL AND ERROR) you may solve it, or at least eventually get a good portion of it done.
I especially liked the near-miss rhyme in the center of 36A(FONDLED) just above 40A(GONDOLA). Insert your own comment here. "30 Rock" creator TINA FEY (33A) sits just above these, either shaking her head in disbelief, or using it as a basis for a new skit. Also can't forget the rustic crossing of VARMINT and AGIN in the top-left. Fun words? Yer darn tootin'!
It's not an easy Friday, and many of the clues are very short and to the point, perhaps offering the solver a few less "gimme"s. Even these short clues were hiding plenty of trickery, such as 47A: Least spotted (RAREST) and 58D:Hearing aids, for short (PAs) as in "Public Address systems". Clever way to clue this inocuous 3-letter combo. Also the interesting phrase lurking at 41D: I MEAN NO, which is clued simply amd directly as "Emphatic turndown".
Oh, if you haven't seen this clue before, it's a good one:
52A: Something needed for your sake? (RICE) - If you didn't get this on the first go-round, don't feel bad; 'sake' = rice wine... it's all in the pronunciation. Sneaky little devil of a clue :).
Here's the puzzle (click for a larger photo. This will not, unfortunately, improve the handwriting.). Good luck with Saturday's puzzle, and have a great weekend!
- Howard B :)