Started with 35A: HANSOLO. (Film character who said, “Look, I ain’t in this for your revolution, and I’m not in it for you, Princess.”) That gave me about six crossers, including 40A: REFLEX (Knee jerk, e.g.) and 33D: NIXES (Puts the kibosh on). Not a bad start for a Friday.
Also got lucky with a long down clue 26D: LINERNOTES (Statements for the record).
Ran into my first problem in the SW with 52D: RAJA (Punjabi chief). That answer was my first instinct, but still, I answered RAni and it blocked me for a long time, until I finally figured out 62A: HASHTAG (Symbol of modern communication) and 60A: ODETOJOY (Schiller work set to music by Beethoven). That I’ve never heard of 44D: GARETH (One of the knights of the Round Table) didn’t help me. But I thought 57A: HATERADE (“Drink” for the overly critical) was cute, and it certainly helped me to solve the SW corner.
In the NE, 7A: SLOWJAM (Mellow R&B track) was a gimme. That led to 10D: WEREup (“It’s our time to go!”), which blocked me for quite some time, until I figured out the correct answer is 10D: WEREON. It didn’t help that 11D: JACKLEMMON (“Glengarry Glenn Ross” co-star, 1992) is just outside my cultural point of reference. However 7D: STATESAVENUE (Pink property) is totally within my social scope, so that helped.
I finished the SE first. Really not much trouble. I didn’t know 38D: ABUDHABI (Where Etihad Airways is headquartered), but the letters fell into place nicely, and it didn’t really slow me down.
NW was last. It wasn’t really hard. I just didn’t have any anchors from which to build. I was clueless forever. I finally got inspiration and answered 1A: PENPAL (Far and away one’s favorite writer?). I was thinking fairy tales, and even the Tom Cruise – Nicole Kidman movie, but was getting nowhere fast. I started thinking, who likes a writer who is far and away?
It got worse when I misanswered 5D: ATOLL (Snorkeling mecca) as Aruba. Only 21A: ALSACE (French border region) saved me from that near fatal mistake.
It got better when I realized 3D: NILE (water source for 11 countries), and soon 18A: KNEEL (Pay homage, in a way), 16A: CELLOS (Items with decorative scrolls), and 14A: AVIATE (Fly) all fell into place.
But I still had holes in the East. Once 30D: TANGO (Steps in a ballroom) and 42A: BONG (Head shop buy) came into focus, I finally finished the puzzle with the crosser 34A: MOA (500-pound bird hunted to extinction) and 29D: POINT (Aim).
35 minutes. Not too bad for a Friday morning.