Constructor: Joel Fagliano
Relative Difficulty: Medium
Word of the Day: FJORD
Geologically, a fjord or fiord (English pronunciation: Listeni/ˈfjɔːrd/ or Listeni/fiˈɔːrd/) is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by glacial erosion.[clarification needed] There are many fjords on the coasts of Alaska, British Columbia, Chile, Greenland, Iceland, the Kerguelen Islands, New Zealand, Norway, Labrador, Nunavut, Newfoundland, and Washington state. Norway's coastline is estimated at 29,000 km with fjords, but only 2500 km [≈ diameter of dwarf planet Pluto, formerly the smallest planet category of our solar system] when fjords are excluded. (Wikipedia)
A nice, bucolic effort that I can't really say anything terrible about. Some less than ideal fill here and there—looking at you, DAP [7D: Fist bump]—but on the whole I think this is pretty much acceptable.
Not a huge fan of STEP [9A: Armstrong's "small" stride]. I want to like it, but the term 'stride' sort of makes it unsatisfying. I realize the intended meaning in this context is "manner of walking" rather than the more common "large step", but I still think a different word choice ('gait', perhaps?) would have made this cleaner. It's just gratingly inartful like this. I'm also not generally impressed by the ubiquitous URSA [8A: ____ Major], or by the somewhat less ubiquitous LUKE [5A: Lorelai's love on "Gilmore Girls"], but neither of those is doing much harm here.
EAST [1A: Right way to go?] is cute, as far as it goes. I know I'm probably supposed to complain that the clue weirdly ascribes an absolute frame of reference to the concept of right/left, but I just don't have the energy. It's fine. EAST is on the right of most maps, which is good enough to make the joke work.
I really like meaty stuff in the middle here: AU JUS is nowhere near as common as it should be [2D: Served in its natural gravy], and it is also fucking delicious. And FJORD is absolutely fantastic [6A: Result of glacial erosion]. Possibly the most satisfying five-letter word there has ever been, frankly. SKORT is, for the moment, still south (not EAST) of having overstayed its welcome in crossword-dom, so that's a net plus [3D: Hybrid piece of women's clothing].
I really ought to make these write-ups more TERSE [4D: To the point], since a lot of this stuff probably goes without
Signed, Jonathan Gibson, served in its natural skort in CrossWorld