Elizabeth Gorski's puzzles are always entertaining. Today's featured a word ladder, which just added to the enjoyment factor...as well as the ease factor. Once I got one of the theme answers, it was easy enough to work forward...then back...to complete the ladder.
1A: *Beginning (dawn)
18A: *"Rats!" (darn)
22A: *Makeshift hangar (barn)
33A: *__ center (burn)
41A: *Right face, e.g. (turn)...that's the one that paved the way for all the others.
53A: *Relative of an Azerbaijani (Turk)
59A: *Narwhal feature (tusk)
66A: *End (dusk)
The theme is wrapped up at 36A: Classic Broadway show tune, or a hint to the word ladder revealed by the answers to the eight starred clues (Sunrise, Sunset).
Favorite clues include 16A: Eats at a bar (tapas), 17A: Major money maker (Mint), 38D: Swiss nationals, historically (neutrals), 42A: Apple picker? (Mac user), 64A: Leaves in a salad (cress), and 39D: Throws out (suggests).
29A: Going postal (in a rage)...with apologies to all postal employees, their friends and family members. My sister (a recently-retired postmaster) never liked the expression...but I do like how the answer looks in the grid.
31A: Sight from Lake Victoria (Entebbe)...didn't have a clue, but it fit.
44A: Shimmer (glisten). I had trouble in that corner because I wouldn't let go of glimmer soon enough...even though I knew it couldn't be right.
52A: Lobster claw (chela). I really thought this had to do with the clasp on a necklace.
61A: Attorney with the autobiography "My Life on Trial" (Belli).
1D: Mater __ (Mary, in Latin prayers) (Domini)...a Roman Catholic upbringing paid off again.
2D: "Familiar Spirits" author Lurie (Alison).
3D: Angelina's "Girl, Interrupted" co-star (Winona). I like one of them. The other...not.
5D: Film producer __ Al-Fayed (Dodi). I didn't know that about him...but I admired Princess Diana and was saddened by their deaths.
8D: Cold-shoulder (ignore)...like the clue as well.
10D: Portion of a trick-or-treater's haul (caramels). If you're not putting chocolate into my Halloween bag, you don't need to put in anything.
12D: Follow-up to "Oh, yeah?" (wanna bet). One of the funniest retort answers ever.
30D: Pretexts (guises).
36D: Heaviest member of the weasel family (sea otter). I don't think of weasels as cute in the least, but this little guy...way cute.
43D: Not homogeneous (ragtag).
48D: Title subject of a 1922 documentary in the National Film Registry (Nanook). It's not just a documentary...according to this article, it's "Widely considered the first full-length document of ALL-TIME!" Didn't know that.
I didn't have a clue about 25A: Home of novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, but I thought his name sounded as though he'd be from Peru...and it was right. I love when that happens.
Time to call it a night. I didn't check answers, so let me know if you spot any errors. Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.