I didn't recognize Brad Wilber's name, so I decided to Google him...and I found out plenty. Not only has he authored several NYT puzzles, he was one of the judges of this year's ACPT. Read more about him here.
Wilber's puzzle, by the way, also kicked butt. Just like yesterday's by John Farmer. It hasn't been a good puzzle week for me, but it hasn't been a good week all around.
We have triple stacks of 10-letter entries running horizontally in the northeast and the southwest--all excellent answers--as well as 9-letter vertical stacks in the northwest and the southeast.
Starting in the northwest:
1D: Shakespearean character who introduced the phrase "salad days" (Cleopatra). I didn't know that, but once I had the EO it was easy to guess.
2D: Tattoo remover (laser beam). I've only known one person who's had a tattoo removed. Most people are just getting more and more. I'm trying to picture a heavily-tattooed arm or leg on a 75-year-old.
3D: Coffeehouse menu subheading (espressos). I've recently switched from all caffeine Americanos to half-caff. My coffee shop refers to it as a Schizo. I'm not taking it personally.
Horizontally in the northeast:
5A: Blow-drying problem (heat damage). The easiest of the three to get.
16A: Slipping frequencies (error rates).
18A: Steering system components (front axles). I had the second word, thanks to knowing 11D: Sports champ depicted in "Cinderella Man," 2005 (Max Baer). Most clues about boxing refer to Baer. His son, Max Baer, Jr., played Jethro on The Beverly Hillbillies.
In the southwest:
51A: Factor in a home's market value (curb appeal). Are housing prices skyrocketing everywhere? Houses in our neighborhood are going for four times what we paid for ours twenty years ago...and I don't think I'm making four times what I earned back then.
56A: Carried by currents, in a way (oceanborne). Harder for me to get than it should have been.
58A: Serenity (heart's ease). I thought this would begin with peace. I had the A from 46D: Chick playing a piano (Corea)...one of only four gimmes in the puzzle...as well as an erroneous E from 52D: Symbol of industry. I had bee, rather than the correct ant.
Wrapping up the stacks were the vertical southeast offerings:
31D: "Elijah" and others (oratorios). I was able to guess that with a few letters in place, but I don't get the answer.
32D: Bridle parts (nose bands).
33D: Piercing glance (gimlet eye). I seem to remember that we had this in the not-too-distant past. Unfortunately, I didn't get it this time.
There were some really good words scattered throughout, including:
22D: Contortionist's inspiration? (pretzel). It helped to know 20D: Fitch who co-founded Abercrombie & Fitch (Ezra)...a regular in the NYT puzzle.
24A: Aquavit flavorer (caraway). I don't have a clue what Aquavit is, but I had the WAY, so it was a pretty sure thing.
30A: Off by a mile (dead wrong). My favorite answer in the puzzle. It so aptly describes my often feeble attempts at solving, although I got it with only the EA in place...from 28D: Material used in making saunas (cedar) and 24D: Novelist Potok (Chiam).
37A: Setting of Camus's "The Fall" (Amsterdam)...a good guess with only the AM in place.
43A: Marina accommodations (boatel)...a word that caused a lot of comments when it last appeared. Boatels were common in south Florida, but many solvers had never heard the word.
Interesting to see 14D: Theme (essay). Yesterday we had assay, clued as [This is a test]. I had essay for that answer, as did several others...a foretelling of a Saturday answer.
I didn't know that risible (clued at 27A) meant absurd. That's worth remembering.
My favorite clue in the puzzle is 38D: It's raised after a payment is collected (toll bar). I scratched my head a few times on that one, but once I finally got it...d'oh!
And I just now saw the answer to 15A: Liner's locale (lash). I was thinking liner as in a ship.
That's it for tonight. Here's the grid...I didn't check it, so please let me know if you spot any errors.
See you tomorrow.