Today's puzzle, No Appointment Necessary, by Eric Berlin, is just what the doctor ordered. Not tear-your-hair-out difficult, but challenging enough to keep boredom at bay. And circles in the grid--something we random thinkers are always happy to see.
If you hadn't already figured out the theme answers by the time you reached 65A: Alternative title for this puzzle (The doctor is in), it was easy enough to go back to the circles and fill in some of those blanks. The theme answers are:
23A: Wall Street worker (SEcUritieS analySt). You can read all about Dr. Seuss here. I was surprised to find out that he wasn't really a doctor at all.
39A: Broadway's "The Producers," e.g. (MusiCal COmedY). Dr. Leonard McCoy, better known as Bones on Star Trek, was played by DeForest Kelley. He is best remembered (by me, anyway) for often saying, "I'm a doctor, not a [fill in the blank]," depending on what he was being asked to do.
50A: They might come back to haunt you (FAmoUS LasT words). I'm sure someone out there knows who Dr. Faust was. It's late and I'm not looking it up.
84A: Appetizers served with sauce (ShrimP cOCKtails). Most of my friends raised their babies on Dr. Spock. I think Mr. Spock might have been better.
91A: It might go in a tank (WATer SOfteNer). Although a fictional character, Dr. John Watson was really a doctor, as well as Sherlock Holmes's confidante.
109A: Elizabeth Dole once led it (DEpartMENT Of labor). I initially thought this was American Red Cross, but it didn't fit. Nor would it have produced a doctor. This one made me laugh for several reasons. First, the name is just so funny. Second, the only trivia I know about Dr. Demento is that he's one of Bart Simpson's mortal enemies. Third, every time I looked at the answer, I saw Department o'Flab.
Every time I got stumped on this puzzle (several), I walked away for at least fifteen minutes, then came back and saw something that had had me staring stupidly for far too long. The last section to fall was the northeast. 16D: Gradually substitute (rotate in) and 17D: One way to argue (heatedly) eluded me forEver. Only when I had those two did I get 53A: Blu-ray players, e.g. (Sonys). I am technologically impaired and don't know about Blu-ray players. I'm just beginning to understand iPods.
Also looked at--and didn't see--several others, including 96A: One way to be taken (aback). Geez, I had A_A_K and still didn't see it. It was the very last word I entered in the grid. Actually had 81A: More than enjoyed (ate up) early on, but every time I'd see it, I was sure I had something wrong. What the hell did ATEUP (pronounced a-toop) mean?
Very good guesses that turned out to be right:
38A: Terre's counterpart (mer). I'm embarrassed to say that I think I remember this word from Titanic. Please remember that my daughter was then 14 and in love with Leonardo DiCaprio. I can't tell you how many times I saw that movie.
102A: Language from which lemon and julep come (Farsi). I knew that 102D: Wash out had to be fade, and there's only one language that starts with an F and has five letters...except that 102D turned out to be fail, which still made my guess work out.
116A: Tempter (siren). I did think snake first, though.
74A: Car that won the 1939 and '40 Indy 500 (Maserati). Guessed that with only the two As in place.
Today we get a double-dose of Bible names. 10D: Mess of pottage buyer (Esau) and 61D: 10-Down's father (Isaac), as well as a playground clue that's better than the standard retorts we usually see. 70D: Playground taunt (sissy).
I'd be remiss if I didn't point out 59D: "__ Say, " 1939 #1 Artie Shaw hit (They). It's only significant if you remember that Artie Shaw was once married to the lovely and talented Ava Gardner.
In addition to Farsi, some words that I don't recall ever seeing in a puzzle include 1A: Dogs named for a region of Japan (Akitas) and 20A: Mrs. Gorbachev (Raisa).
Stumbled for a while on 89A: Symbol on a 6 key (caret). I was thinking letters on a phone pad, not the ^ that appears on a keyboard as the uppercase of 6. Also struggled with 58A: Game played with a 1/2- to 3/4-inch ball (roulette). A ping pong ball was the smallest I could think of, and I knew that wasn't small enough.
My favorite clues include 38D: Cheese place (mousetrap), 21A: Start a pot going (ante), and 119A: 10-year prison sentence, in gang slang (dime).
It got awfully close to 100 today, and I'm whipped. I should have taken a siesta (121A: Time out?) but didn't. So I'm calling it a night.
See you tomorrow.