Color me impressed: that's four days running with high quality crosswords, five if you liked David Steinberg's multiple R bonanza on Wednesday. Today's puzzle featured a wide-open grid, with a lot of lovely seven- and eight-letter words sprinkled throughout. I really enjoyed the STROLLS I took down its various paths. There was only one section of below average fill. Very nice.
I found this to be an easier than average Sunday, but that was okay, given the style of the fill and the humor in the theme. With only five across themed answers, there was room for two down themed answers, neither of which crossed any of the across themes. This is how you make a clean puzzle.
So, change a W in a phrase to a WH, changing its word to a homonym, and make a clue to make sense of the resultant new phrase. By far, my favorite was 41A: Roller coaster shout from Queen Elizabeth? (THEROYALWHEE). That's laugh out loud. None of the others quite match the lovely absurdity of that clue and answer. I liked that THEPRINCEOFWHALES made another British connection, and GETOUTOFMYWHEY is cute. WHICHDOCTOR is the least interesting of the lot.
The crossing of OCAT and IMARI could have been a Natick for any number of solvers, I imagine. One-o'cat is apparently baseball played on a cricket pitch, more or less. There's only a home plate and one base and you have to run back and forth. I never heard of it, much less played it. Plus, WNET is a guess for anybody outside of NYC. Granted, this is the New York Times, but still.
I also didn't like OGEES crossing ENSE. Both of these are well established crosswordese standards, but you don't like to see them that way. Otherwise, ENNEADS was a surprise, ARMERS is a little ugly, but I'll take just about everything else.
1A: Animals at a football game (MASCOTS) made me think of Lions, Tigers (college football - the Clemson ones are ranked number one currently), and Bears, oh my. So the actual answer was a twist I liked okay. I'll give it a B. How about 21A: Lay bare (UNCLOTHE)? That was very nice. Combine that with 52A: Make out (NECK) for a steamy evening.
My favorite clue and answer pair is 121A: You may want to stop reading when you see this (SPOILER). Very nice bit of cluing.