THEME: No theme today—Just a themeless/freestyle puzzle that hits at a Wednesday difficulty level
The grid features triple-stacks of 15-letter entries at the top and bottom, crossed almost entirely by 3-, 4-, and 5-letter answers. There's nothing too wild here. Instead of hashing out the long answers, let's run through the shorter stuff in the Less Familiar Fill category. It's not all quite Crosswordese 101 territory, but it's got a visa to travel there.
- 20A: Asian holidays (TETS). Well, if we can have Christmases and Memorial Days, we can have multiple Vietnamese New Years, right?
- 45A: Russian pancake (BLIN). That's the singular of "blini." If you fill a blin with cheese or fruit and roll it up, you've got yourself a blintz. Or, like this woman demonstrates, fill it with cheese and top it with mixed berries with a splash of balsamic vinegar. I want some!
- 46A: Oldest child in the comic strip "Baby Blues" (ZOE). It's time for actress ZOE Saldana to commandeer all the ZOE clues. With the year she's having? She played Uhura in the Star Trek relaunch in the spring and now she's in Avatar playing a blue alien.
- 58A: Miss out? (DEB). That's a debutante, who's "coming out" at a debutante ball, and is a "miss" on account of being unmarried.
- 1D: Tasty (SAPID). It's closely related to "savory," but "savory" is a word we actually might use in conversation. SAPID is a word I know from crosswords.
- 27D: __ gratias (DEO). That's Latin for "thanks be to god."
- 31D: Pollster Gallup (ALEC). Whoa, really? I know the ALECs Baldwin, Waugh, and Guinness, and I know the pollster Elmo Roper, but pollster ALEC Gallup? Never heard of him. Aww, he died in June so he doesn't get to enjoy seeing his name in this crossword.
- 36D: Anchor position (ATRIP). Nauticalese! Among my least favorite breeds of crosswordese. Maybe if I'd ever taken sailing lessons, I'd groove on this sort of fill.
- 37D: Highland hillsides (BRAES). Scottish crosswordese of the highest order. I've known this word since I was a kid...because I did a lot of crossword puzzles.
- 48D: Stevens who sang "Pink Shoe Laces" (1959) (DODIE). I prefer Dody Goodman, who played Mary's mother on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.
- 50D: Certain Arabian Peninsula native (ADENI). I prefer to call them Adenoids, but have not yet had any luck persuading the people of the Gulf of Aden to go along with that.
- 54D: Traffic regs., e.g. (ORDS.) Meh. Plural abbrevs are irritating, aren't they?
- 56D: Twain's jumping frog (DAN'L). I know Dan'l Boone and maybe Dan'l Webster, but not the hopping green Dan'l.
Everything Else — 1A: Medieval castle feature (SPIRAL STAIRCASE); 16A: Harding's Laddie Boy, for one (AIREDALE TERRIER); 17A: Health club option (PERSONAL TRAINER); 18A: Freeze (ICE); 19A: Indicates (SAYS); 20A: Asian holidays (TETS); 21A: Univ. awards (DEGS); 23A: Risked (STAKED); 26A: Actor Harris et al. (EDS); 29A: Three-time A.L. MVP (A-ROD); 30A: Help a checker (BAG); 33A: Gamblers' mecca (MONTE CARLO); 37A: Composer Bartók (BELA); 38A: Barhopping (ON A TOOT); 39A: Some specials (ENTRÉES); 41A: Uproar (TO-DO); 42A: Gadget largely pooh-poohed by men until the 20th century (WRISTWATCH); 44A: Dubbed period (ERA); 45A: Russian pancake (BLIN); 46A: Oldest child in the comic strip "Baby Blues" (ZOE); 47A: Under-the-sink item (SOS PAD); 49A: Marquis de __ (SADE); 53A: Open end? (TOED); 55A: "Do or do not. There is no try" speaker (YODA); 58A: Miss out? (DEB); 59A: With "The," 1958 Hudson/Stack movie about a former WWI ace (TARNISHED ANGELS); 63A: Longtime pal (OLD ACQUAINTANCE); 64A: Christianity dominates it (WESTERN RELIGION); 1D: Tasty (SAPID); 2D: See 40-Down (PIECE); 3D: Not std. (IRREG.); 4D: They precede mis (RES); 5D: Fusses (ADOS); 6D: Turner, for one (LANA); 7D: Really cracks up (SLAYS); 8D: Launch of 1962 (TELSTAR); 9D: 1-800-CALL-__: rival of 1-800-COLLECT (ATT); 10D: Cash add-on (-IER); 11D: Violent, probably (R RATED); 12D: Bawled (CRIED); 13D: Frowned-upon contraction (AIN'T); 14D: Views (SEES); 15D: Commit a faux pas (ERR); 22D: Tiff (SET-TO); 24D: City that inspired van Gogh (ARLES); 25D: Dean of horror (KOONTZ); 27D: __ gratias (DEO); 28D: Glares (SCOWLS); 30D: Sugar source (BEET); 31D: Pollster Gallup (ALEC); 32D: Razor cut, maybe (GASH); 33D: Dust unit (MOTE); 34D: Words before before (ON OR); 35D: Zilch (NADA); 36D: Anchor position (ATRIP); 37D: Highland hillsides (BRAES); 40D: With 2-Down, like a bikini (TWO); 43D: Next Christmas (IN A YEAR); 45D: Dirndl part (BODICE); 47D: Gérard Larcher is its current president (SENAT); 48D: Stevens who sang "Pink Shoe Laces" (1959) (DODIE); 50D: Certain Arabian Peninsula native (ADENI); 51D: Car battery pioneer (DELCO); 52D: "Barnaby Jones" star (EBSEN); 53D: Account (TALE); 54D: Traffic regs., e.g. (ORDS); 56D: Twain's jumping frog (DAN'L); 57D: Like contrarians (ANTI); 59D: Auto club service (TOW); 60D: Plaza abbr. (SQR.); 61D: Vandal (HUN); 62D: Choke or joke (GAG).