Sunday puzzles are my favorites...partly because I'm able to do them leisurely, partly because I enjoy the often quirky themes.
I had two of the theme answers without even understanding what was going on. The title of the puzzle, Set Your Mind at Ease, doesn't give it away. Ease refers to the letter sounds...the short E sound in common phrases has been replaced with a long E sound, and the new phrases are then clued.
The theme answers are:
23A: Organization of easily frightened people? (Chicken League).
40A: Result of not wearing rouge? (blank cheek).
97A: Strict Jesuit? (hard priest).
117A: Smart fowl? (educated geese). This one made me laugh the most and was my favorite until...well, you'll see.
13D: Bundle of pies? (pastry sheaf).
16D: "Mr. Cowell, grab that 'American Idol' contestant!"? (Simon seize). This was the first clue that caught my eye, and I knew the answer immediately. Must be because of the old joke about the original title of Julius Caesar...Julius, grab the girl quickly before she gets away.
65D: Bully turned Samaritan? (a good meanie). My favorite, just because the original phrase is a good one.
72D: House Un-American Activities Committee event? (Red hearing).
The fill was well above-average, even for a Sunday. Before I get into that, though, I should add that it was extremely difficult for me, and I would never have finished without Google. Even with the handful of answers I was able to get that way, I still struggled mightily to get several answers to fall.
Some of the best clues/answers:
31A: Place to buy a hookah (bazaar)...love both the clue and the answer.
34A: "The Treachery of Images" artist (Magritte). We've had it several times, and it's getting easier to spot.
52A: Cartoon character who amorously chases Penelope (LePew). Aah, good ol' Pepé Le Pew. I had the wrong cartoon character in mind, confusing Penelope with Petunia...so had Porky at first.
70A: Nasty biter (cur). I'm including this one because I had asp for the longest time. I don't know how I finally figured out that it was wrong.
87A: "__ say..." (sad to). Sad to say, that took me forever to get.
7D: Lie detector alternative (pentothal). I'd just be spilling my guts all over the place. Years ago my dentist gave me a shot of something before oral surgery...he may have been pulling my leg when he told me how funny I'd been, but he sure knew some things he wouldn't have known otherwise. I considered switching dentists, but he never held it over my head.
30D: Place for couples? (ark).
35D: "Biography" channel (A and E). Damn! I hate when I fall for those.
36: Banded rock (gneiss). I wish I had remembered that from geology, but I needed crosses to get it.
58D: Cornwall carriage (pram).
78D: Something bid (adieu). Clever.
82D: Not take out of the company, say (reinvest). I was thinking company...like military...so had reenlist at first. It really didn't make sense, even at the time.
89D: A defendant may be tried in it (absentia). Knew the word but couldn't bring it to mind until I had some letters in place.
93D: Like most sitcoms (episodic).
104D: Roofed patio (lanai). Love it because it reminds me of Hawaii...or Maui...or Kauai.
Good multiword answers, including:
1A: Drink with a straw (soda pop).
102A: Psychiatrist's urging (let it out).
6D: Common pizzeria order (one slice).
12D: Start to weep (shed a tear). We had that just the other day.
22D: Relatively recent time (late date).
60D: "Take your time" (no rush).
76D: Eyed angrily (glared at). One of only a few gimmes.
84D: Onetime Movietone productions (news reels). I guess that could be one word.
86D: Veterans (old timers). So could that.
The award for best clue for a common crossword answer goes to 90D: It may not need clarification (oleo).
There were a lot of unfamiliar names...the reason for much of my Googling.
19A: Open-mesh fabric (etamine). I have never heard the word in my life.
21A: Oil used in making polyurethane (aniline). Same for this one.
43A: Psalm, e.g. (paean)...got it from crosses.
47A: Football Hall-of-Famer (Greasy) Neale (Earle). Another odd spelling, but not as strange as Erle. That's Greasy to the left.
56A: Former Israeli president Weizman (Ezer).
92A: Bobby of the Chicago Eight (Seale).
100A: Peru's El __ volcano (Misti).
120A: "The Great __" (Pat Conroy novel) (Santini). Not on my list of books I've read. Should it be on the list of books to read?
69D: Market value of a company's assets divided by their replacement cost (Q ratio). Never heard of it, but here's information about it for those who want to know more.
If I missed your favorites, I hope you'll share them.
Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.