Once again, the title of the Sunday puzzle is very clever. "Mores," pronounced just like the eels (morays), plays double-duty. First, it explains the "ay" sound that is added to the end of every theme answer that changes it from a familiar phrase into something that fits with the clue, and second, it describes the cluing of the theme answers as being related to habits, manners, and/or customs. As in...
"Let everyone else get some steak before taking seconds!" - YOUVEHADYOURFILET
Why no one hangs out in actors' dressing rooms these days? - BACKSTAGEPASSE
The manners/customes/habits angle doesn't really hold up throughout, I realize - like it's hard to make it fit with UNSOLICITEDBIDET (Bathroom fixture that one never asked for) and COLDHARDCACHET (What the prestigious ice scluptor had?), but if you contort your brain just enough, you can justify most anything, right?
And can we discuss 1A? It's got that same "ay" sound at the end. Is it inelegant? Or is it chutzpah? It's Mr. Kwan's debut in the NYTX. Is he announcing his first ESSAY? Like I said, if you twist your thoughts enough, anything is possible...
But let's let that go, shall we? ICANSEE you'd rather talk ABA other things. We've got the interesting duo of PIPPA and PIPPIN, a bunch of comparatives IFFIER, NIFTIER, PERKIEST, and LATISH, and a number of beasts: a RHESUS monkey, OCTOPI, SWINE, and a MADCOW. It's interesting that DEUS springs off of the D in GODSQUAD, and that OSIRIS and FAMINE (Something Pharaoh's dream foretold in Genesis) are almost related and almost touching. I liked the clue for APPLES (Bob hopes?) (but did anyone ever really enjoy bobbing for apples?), and "Firth person?" (SCOT) and "First mate?" (EVE) were fun, too.
I'd say this CUTIT for a debut puzzle.