It's always a bit of a shock to do a Monday puzzle right after making it through the weekend, and that seems even more true if, like me, you didn't work on the Sunday much at all. Encountering clues like 27D: "Thank you very ____" (MUCH), 55A: "You ____ what you eat" (ARE), and 39A: New Jersey's capital (TRENTON), after dealing with the Friday and Saturday puzzles – well, it's very different. I can't really complain about simplicity on Mondays, and so I won't, but today's puzzle, while having the above clues and many more like them, also had a few clues that seemed incongruously difficult. 21D: Circumference (AMBIT), 51D: Small Indian drum (TABLA) (I got this one immediately, because a girl I had a crush on in high school played it, but I don't think it's a household word in too many American households), and 66A: Philosopher John who posited a theory of social contract (LOCKE). They're not impossible, but it seems like a big jump from one group to the next. Maybe I'm wrong... I don't know.
Also, I read a comment from the constructor Matt Ginsberg, who made last Saturday's puzzle, wherein he said that that very puzzle was submitted to the NYT more than two years ago, and just ran two days ago. It seems that with that kind of lag time/preparation time, they could avoid having a clue like 9D: ____ passage (NASAL) yesterday, and 41D: ____ decongestant (NASAL) today. Or 17D: Lunchbox treats (OREOS) yesterday, and 52D: Nabisco cookies (OREOS) today. A conservative estimate would claim that there are at least 200,000 distinct words in the English language. Add to that a smattering of acceptable foreign words, proper names, and abbreviations, and it seems that one shouldn't have to have multiple duplicate words in subsequent puzzles. I know, I know– I haven't made a puzzle myself, and I don't understand how hard it is to fill a grid, but my job today is critic, and that, dear reader, is my criticism.
The unannounced theme today is a simple one that I enjoy: an anagrammed word in four theme entries. MESA, becomes AMES, SAME and SEAM at the beginning of four long answers. Not bad.
Lastly, I've decided to drop our cumulative scores. I have found them troubling, slightly unfair, and ultimately unnecessary.
p.s. I almost forgot to mention my favorite entry today - ROTTENEGGS (18A: Last ones in the pool, say). Loved it!