NOW WEIGHT JUST A SECOND
It's not often, I'm sorry to report, that a Sunday puzzle lives up to the reputation that the NYT crossword puzzle works so hard to maintain. And that's a shame, because probably the Sunday puzzle is the one done by the most people, I declare completely unscientifically. But today's definitely breaks that mold for a number of reasons, which I will now go into unbearable detail about. Brace yourselves.
It all starts with the theme, as always. At first I thought today's theme was a fairly standard if well done version of your basic pun scheme. Take a routine phrase in the English language, replace one of the words with a near-homonym, clue the wacky result and hilarity ensues, and so on. And if that were all that was going on, it would be reasonably good still. All the phrases are well-recognized, all the clues are humorous, and so on.
But WEIGHT! There's more. Look at the title: it's not just a pun. It's instructions! Put the emphasis on the second syllable in each case. Thus "ship of the DEsert" becomes SHIPOFTHEDESSERT, where the emphasis is on that last syllable. "The MOral of the story" becomes THEMORALEOFTHESTORY. And my favorite of all, because the clue is just so absurd is at 68A: "Our lab studies regular dance moves rather than high-kicking"? (ITSNOTROCKETTESCIENCE). Incredible. That's great work to come up with seven high quality examples of this specific trick.
Better than all of that, though is the quality of the remainder of the puzzle. I knew we were going to have a fun time today when I figured out 1D: What one does not do when sent to jail (PASSGO). So unexpected, so perfect. Let's look at some excellent clues today.
15D: Package deliverers of the present day? (REINDEER) - "present day" as in Christmas...
17D: 75+ person (SPEEDER)
46D: Imperfect cube (LOADEDDIE). I almost did die when I got that one.
97D: Some brick houses (IGLOOS). Hah!
Also some lovely words like GADGETRY, INREPOSE, and WASABI. The only entry I shied at was UMW, and if that's all, you know Mr. McCoy has done fine work today.