Today I am grateful for well crafted Monday puzzles. Ms. Lempel is a past master of this art form, and today's is no exception.
The theme is so clever! The revealer comes at 28D: Reduce one's standards, as illustrated, respectively, in 3-, 5-, 7-, 40- and 28-Down (LOWERTHEBAR). So naturally, you can see the three-letter string B-A-R starting at the top in 3D: Smallest possible amount (BAREMINIMUM), progressing downward, never overlapping, until it falls to the bottom of the puzzle in the revealer. So beautifully done!
When I first entered 3D, I thought, well there's a nice piece of bonus fill. Most of the time, of course, theme answers progress in the across rather than the down. Then I got to 7D, the 15-letter grid-spanner, and that alerted me to the likelihood that these were actually theme answers. And what an answer! Everybody loves It's a Wonderful Life, and Mr. Potter, played by LIONELBARRYMORE, gives some of the best lines of the movie. ("And happy New Year to you... in jail!")
The fill is smooth enough. Sure there are a few NGO MBAS HMO which serve to allow the rest of the puzzle to work. There aren't any particularly clever clues either, but everything worked to make the solving process enjoyable. LONESOME reminds me to give a strong recommendation to the singer-songwriter Mitski. Her song "Lonesome Love" is a great example of her skills.
I'd like more Mondays like this one, please.