It seems as though the New York Times puzzles have been much more challenging this past two weeks. If that's the new wave, I'm in trouble.
Most of Byron Walden's Saturday puzzle came together, but I went to bed last night with the southeast corner unfinished. After a good night's sleep (and a cup of Kauai coffee in hand), I finally saw what I couldn't see last night.
My biggest problem? 49A: Tub handle? I had the P*RK...although it seemed quite tacky, I couldn't get porky (or porkie, in this case) out of my head. This morning I erased everything I wasn't sure of...which let me see 50D: Word with flute or horn (alto). I was thinking of the wrong kind of tub...hence the wrong kind of handle. Is it butter? No, it's Parkay.
After that, I got 35D: Polish (elegance). That's one of those clues that can really throw you if you read it with the wrong vowel sound...or if you read it as a verb instead of a noun. I had tried both.
Other problems for me in that corner included 36D: Palestinian fighters (fedayeen) and 53A: TNT ingredient? (toluene). I don't get why there was a question mark. Because of that, my first answer was two tees...and it stayed for a very long time.
I wonder how many of you were thrown by 33A: Player coached by Hank Stram. If you were searching for the name of a particular athlete who would fit, you were in that boat with me. The answer was much more generic...Kansas City Chief. I cry foul...or interference...or off sides.
I generally love to see articles included in answers...and not just because that makes it a multiword answer...but I wasn't expecting it at 37A: Mayor's introduction (the honorable). My sister was the mayor of a small mountain town...we weren't that fancy.
My very favorite answer was 20D: Underwritten? (captioned)...and I got it with only the P in place. Why, then, was the rest of the puzzle so difficult?
Other favorites include:
17A: Lipitor and such (statins)...my drug of choice. I love my new cholesterol numbers...total 163, HDL 69, LDL 76. Better living through chemistry.
18A: State University of New York campus site (Oneonta). I didn't know this. How many campuses does SUNY have?
19A: Like some glasses (three D)...I read it as threed and was sure I had something wrong.
38A: Wearer of a wraparound cloth called a lavalava (Samoan).
43A: Customary start for Wimbledon singles finals (two pm). I didn't have a clue but knew they were looking for a time...I had ten am at first. It sounded reasonable.
54A: Bouts of madness (deliria). How about that? Yesterday Ava was in the puzzle...today it's madness.
55A: Kindergarten admonition (act nice). This is a step up from playground retorts, although I recall being told to play nice.
2D: Where Neptune can be found (in the sea). That was too funny...I wanted it to be Milky Way.
8D: "Too rich for my blood" (I fold). I think I'm old fits there, but it messes with the cross.
23D: Recipe amount (pinch). I don't even want to tell you how long it took me to see that.
27D: The Galloping Gourmet (Graham Kerr). Nice to have a long gimme...my mother enjoyed watching his show.
38D: Hospital patron (St. Jude). Again, with the STJ in place, I was sure I had a wrong answer somewhere.
Names I didn't know and will probably never remember include 20A: 1950s Dodgers pitcher __ Labine (Clem), 29A: Pulitzer-winning historian Doris __ Goodwin (Kearns), 10D: Top Médoc classification (Premier Cru), 25D: Slovenian-born N.B.A. guard Vujacic (Sasha), 28D: "Watership Down" director Martin (Rosen). But I did know 4D: "American the Beautiful" poet Katharine Lee __ (Bates), 44D: Winner of a record 82 P.G.A. Tour events (Snead)...one of my Dad's favorites as I was growing up, 48D: Tennis's Nastase (Ilie) and 52D: "Lucky Number Slevin" actress, 2006 (Liu).
I'd rather see 8A: Savanna bounders (impalas) clued in reference to the old Chevrolet we had. Actually, it was 1965 and it was our first brand new car. I think we had gazelle with that same clue recently, so I tried to make that fit...it wouldn't.
It's past noon on the east coast, so I'd better get this up.
Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.