I think this may be the first time in my solving history that I've completed a Trip Payne puzzle...I remember struggling through them in some of my New York Times puzzle books earlier on in my solving career.
The puzzle's title, TWO OUT OF THREE, didn't provide much of a clue initially, but I was able to figure it with the first theme answer...each of which consists of several three-letter words, all sharing the same first two letters. The resulting expressions are clued in new, sometimes clever, ways.
24A: Nonsense about a cocktail? (ROB ROY ROT). All of the downs in the northeast corner were easy, giving me this theme answer right away...and a hint to all the rest of them.
25A: Warning about Mel Gibson on a wrestling surface? (MAD MAX MAN MAY MAR MAT).
41A: Major book about a leader of the lighter industry? (BIG BIC BIZ BIO). Some of these are pretty good tongue twisters.
67A: Hound, typically? (FOE FOR FOX). This was the best...in its pure simplicity.
90A: Why horses are attracted to a witch's headgear? (HAG HAS HAY HAT).
106A: Why guitar-loving Cooke was blue when his gal named her favorite musical instrument? (SAD SAM SAW SAL SAY SAX). I had all the words in my head, but I had a hard time putting them in the proper order.
112A: Witticism about a wrinkly little dog? (PUG PUP PUN). Again, I confused the order. Had PUG PUN, then PUP PUN. Finally confirmed the correct answer/order with the downs.
3D: A nitwit liked the loud noise? (DIP DID DIG DIN).
63D: Complicate commercials for woodworking tools? (ADD ADZ ADS ADO).
While I wasn't particularly crazy about the theme, I'll have to admit it was clever. It also made it easier to get a toehold in every area of the puzzle...once you had a few letters, you could fill in 2/3 of the others.
But the puzzle still gets big points. Much of the fill was superb, with beautifully deceptive cluing [76A: Part of making a crossword].
Some of the best...13A: Diamond points (bases), 22A: Between green and black, maybe (ripe), 28A: Catchy tunes (ditties)...had jingles at first, 38A: Bagel order (schmear), 50A: Like most jigsaw puzzles (diecut), 84A: Half of an animation duo (Hanna)...the first one to come to mind, 116A: Cover, in a way (pave), 13D: Open up, as a topic (broach), 19D: Some crosstown trips (taxi rides), 43D: Making a curling motion with the forefinger, maybe (beckoning), 45D: Like some jeans (button fly)...hate 'em, 46D: To-do pile's place (inbox), 75D: W.W. II American naval cruiser (USS Alaska), 95D: Show off (flaunt), 98D: Feature of some locks (keypad)...I was thinking locks, as in hair, and 101D: "__ is just pink trying to be purple": Whistler (mauve).
Good multiword answers include:
19A: Affected (too-too)...I think that's hyphenated. Took me too long to get that one.
56A: Decent (not bad).
75A: Formerly did (used to).
4D: Apparently do (seem to). That was really difficult when I had jingles for 28A.
11D: Get __ of (a load).
14D: Whenever (any time).
60D: In __ (dazed) (a fog).
64D: End of a James Bond title (Let Die). Don and I started watching Casino Royale earlier tonight. I just couldn't get into it...violence of any kind really doesn't appeal to me.
104D: Rider of the steed Babieca (El Cid).
There were several obscure (to me) answers...I was able to get them from the crosses.
18A: Fashion's Tahari (Elie). Never heard of him/her or the clothing line.
51A: Snow leopard (ounce). Didn't know it was called that. Here's the article that confirmed it for me.
59A: Margaret famous for painting waiflike children with big eyes (Keane). Here's a link to a gallery where you can view (and buy) some of her paintings. I'll pass...the one I liked was $16,000.
69A: Subject of the film "An Unreasonable Man" (Nader). Didn't know that.
85A: Verdi's "Don __" (Carlos).
2D: Its first word translates as "wrath" (Iliad). Know the word, didn't know the translation.
40D: German chancellor Merkel (Angela). Clueless on this one.
100D: Clinton's first defense secretary (Aspin).
102D: Exeunt __ (stage direction) (omnes).
109D: Home to the Dr. Pepper Museum (Waco). I didn't know there was such a thing.
Very much liked 93A: Something "realise" lacks (zed). I'm sure I'm not the only one who had zee until 65D: Wrote a novel, e.g. (prosed) made me realize the error of my ways. And I thought I was clever to get it right off.
Related clues at 36D: R.N.'s locale (ICU) and 117A: Part of the answer to 36-Down (Intensive). Nice to get such a long answer without a struggle.
Well, I'd better git (42D: "Skedaddle!"), but I'll leave you with this thought. Only one month until Christmas!
Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.