You know the routine by now…solve, then read.
Hi, solvers! Erik has another themeless, and while it’s not very name-heavy at all, it played very difficult for me. Not much went in easily: ANI, GENA, ORAJEL fell quickly, as did RENÉS and SEGAS. Then there was a lot of fumbling here and there. In the SE corner I was pretty sure about GENE therapy but was stuck between SERTA and Sealy right below, so I had SE___ for a while. In the NE I eventually got DEBUG, which led to DEBTOR and ESTAD_ (couldn’t remember if the word was masculine or feminine). Jump to the NW corner where I eventually got EMBARGO and PIONEER, which led to EPIDEMIC. In that area, MINIGOLF just would not come to me. Kept trying to think of something one would put through the mill and nothing fit, until I realized [Putting through the mill, etc.] was actually “putt”ing. Really clever misdirection.
The most difficult parts for me were STEAK RUB (kept trying to think of “coat” as an article of clothing), MOOK, and SLEW (with the amazing clue [Wasted in church?]). Overall, a frustrating but enjoyable solve.
I can’t complain about the fill. Thought I was going to, when I saw the Roman numeral clue for 55a. [MMMMMXL 55-Across X], until I realized the answer was DIV for “divided by.” If I wanted to do math in my puzzles, I’d be solving KenKen instead. Everything else was lovely.
Favorite clues besides the above are [Rock tumbler’s motion?] for STAGE DIVE, [Non-stand-up double] for EVIL TWIN, and the beautiful shout-out to Erik’s unnamed poster, [Bête noire of this blog’s anonymous commenter (stay strong, beloved)] for ESOTERICA. What a fine tribute to the person who brings us nuggets of joy such as these (spoiler for one of the entries, but it’s over two weeks old at this point):
I love it. ❤