According to cruciverb.com, Billie Truitt made his New York Sun debut last month. It's probably safe to assume that this is his debut with the New York Times. Way to go, Billie!
This was definitely an enjoyable puzzle. The theme featured two-word expressions, with the spelling of the last word changed to become an animal. The new expression was then cleverly clued.
20A: Antlered salon employee? (styling moose).
31A: Lost bobcat? (missing lynx).
45A: Wildebeest who doesn't spare the rod? (spanking gnu)...my favorite of the clues.
52A: Unwelcome porcine party attendee? (crashing boar)...although that one was pretty good.
Favorite clues include:
25A: Curly poker (Moe)...nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.
28A: Make darts, say (sew). Raise your hand if you were thinking the other kind of darts.
62A: Continental divide? (ocean).
38D: Something to slide on (banister). Those were the good old days...sliding down the banister at my grandmother's house.
54D: What wavy lines signify in the comics (odor). I couldn't for the life of me picture that and needed crosses to get it.
Favorite answers include 23A: Woodworker's groove (dado), 36A: Grab some Z's (take a nap), 43A: Passé (old hat), 50A: Broadway musical with the song "Will I?" (Rent)...an easy guess, 57A: Crawfish's home (bayou), 5D: Mrs. Bumstead (Blondie)...nee Boopadoop, 6D: Slow movements in music (largos), 8D: Showy blooms (begonias), 9D: Prom accessory (corsage), 26D: Even (with) (on a par), 30D: Li'l fellow (wee lad), 41D: Vail trails (ski runs), and 46D: It's between the headlights (grille).
Since I love birds and everything having to with them, it follows that I would like 25D: Chatty avians (mynahs). They're not just chatty...they're downright resourceful.
That's it for tonight. Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.