I just want to start by saying that we are spoiled. The collective we that solve the NYT crossword, I mean. Sure, if you read other blogs out there, you might come away thinking the the NYT crossword has gone through a major decline in quality. This is not a decline that I have witnessed, having come back to this puzzle after a long time. Over the past several years, I continue to be astonished by the majority of puzzles.
You may also have read that there are other crosswords out there that outshine in inventiveness and cleverness, that don't make sacrifices in quality of fill. This may well be true as well. I don't have the time to spend solving many puzzles a day, so I have little to compare to.
Except now, I have received a subscription (again after many many years) to World Of GAMES magazine. I love most of the puzzles in this publication, but the crosswords show me just how consistently high quality the NYT is. So while I may moan about a few things here and there, it's worth it to remind myself how much fun it is to look forward to the chunk of time I devote to solving this particular puzzle.
All right, from the general to the specific. What an impressive theme this Sunday puzzle has. There are ten starred clues, each of which has pairs of each letter save one. When the orphaned letters are read from each answer from top to bottom, you spell out the word REMAINDERS. Wow.
The actual starred answers are mostly high quality. I might quibble with BARMEMBER (I don't think I've ever heard of a lawyer referred to this way, but it is true that each lawyer is a member of his or her state bar), and PRETTYPENNY really needs an "a" before it to make full sense. But look at the first and last answers (the longest). HIPPOCRATICOATH? GOESUNDERGROUND? Those are solid answers, and that each has all doubled letters save one, and they are the R and S of the metatheme answer, AND the two answers are the same length? I'm blown away.
So. Of course, with all that theme material, there's bound to be a fair amount of not so great fill. I made an error at the cross of UTRILLO and LOSALAMOS (I put in LaS____ and didn't recognize my mistake). TIPPY... hmm. LIEUP, UPLIT, UPTOYOU. That's three UPs. INBAD is sort of strange. ELIDERS... yeah, well.
But you know what? I'm giving it a break. Plus, there's SPEECHBUBBLES and NICOTINEPATCH. And 108A: South side? (OKRA). Funny!
1A: Joke's target (BUTT). Butt. Heh. Heh heh. He said butt. B+ (for butt). How many times can I say butt in one paragraph? Apparently a bunch.