Henry Hook hasn't had a New York Times puzzle since the end of April...remember the Circle of Friends?
Today's puzzle wasn't nearly as tough as that one, but I struggled in a few areas...words not seen or heard often, as well as some I'd never heard of.
That said, there were quite a few gimmes. 18A: "Pardon me" (ahem); 19A: Closing bid? (adieu)...making its second appearance this week; 21A: McCartney, to fans (Sir Paul); 39A: Hostel environments (inns); 40A: Wore out (ran ragged); 49A: Roast pig side dish (poi)...aah, Hawaii; 60A: Engine manufacturer Briggs & __ (Stratton); 12D: Ward of "Once and Again" (Sela); 28D: Ponch player in 1970s-'80s TV (Estrada); and 43D: City connected to the 4.1-mile long Sunshine Skyway Br. (St. Pete).
I had more erasures with this puzzle than I can remember having at any time in my solving history. Some of the wrong answers I remember:
17A: Without a match (uniquely). Once I had the Q in place, I thought I was sitting pretty...had unequals.
33A: Most in need of toning (fleshiest). What a disgusting word. Even more disgusting than flabbiest...which is what I originally had for the answer.
37A: Get all histrionic (emote). Went blank on histrionic...so had orate.
14D: Sighing a lot, maybe (blase'). Again, with the first letter in place, I thought I was right on with bored.
There were probably several others, but I've managed to forget them.
I was totally clueless in other areas. Didn't have a clue about 48A: Appoints as an agent (deputes); 56A: Afro-Caribbean religion (Santeria); 58A: Toeless creature in an Edward Lear verse (Pobble)...you can read the poem here; 10D: Moldovan money (leu); 23D: __ Pendragon, King Arthur's father (Uther); or 27D: West African currency (leone).
I generally struggle with connected clues...today was no exception. 1A: Concerned query (you ok?) and 1D: Hoped-for reply to 1-Across (yeah, I'm fine). I had a hard time thinking of a question that would begin with the same letter as the response.
Once I had a few letters in place, I was able to get some of the longer answers.
2D: Payment is often sent with one (order blank).
3D: Apt to say "So?" (unimpressed).
25D: Call slip? (wrong number). Best clue in the puzzle.
30D: Too awful even to fix up, as an apartment (unlettable). Not a word you hear often, although in our tight rental market here, it comes up more often than I'd like to hear. Basically, if the general public can afford it, you wouldn't want to live there.
31D: Octopus, e.g. (sea dweller).
26A: Weaken, in a way (embrittle). Never heard the word used.
44A: Result of a new TV series' renewal (season two). Had season...struggled to think of an appropriate second word. Eventually got 45D: Kitchen appliance brand (Oster)...not Amana...and I was off and running.
For some reason, I liked 47D: In a sense (sorta). Well, I sorta liked it.
Two of the infamous -er words, one sitting right atop the other: 61A: One with a second helping (dueler) and 63A: Personnel director, at times (firer). Somewhat clunky, but okay in an otherwise good puzzle.
So much for my recent sports knowledge. I totally bombed 62A: Super Bowl XX champs (The Bears). I wasn't expecting the answer to start with an article, and I struggled to find the name of a team that would fit in there. I ended up Googling to find out who won...still didn't see how Chicago Bears would fit in there.
That's it for tonight. Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.