I'm pretty sure this is the first Sunday puzzle Mike Nothnagel has had since I started doing the New York Times again a year and a half ago...not counting the diagramless that appeared last month.
The title, I NEED MY SPACE, made me think it would have something to do with the solar system.
The theme answers are all in-the-language phrases, each with the word room added to it. The new phrases are then clued.
24A: Like a useless photo lab employee? (afraid of the darkroom). I got this one right away. I'm not sure if that means it was easy...or if I was just on Mike's wavelength. Have I mentioned that he's one of my favorite constructors?
39A: Offers breakfast to students before first period? (brings homeroom the bacon). One of the best theme answers.
53A: Beer sources for genteel guests? (powderroom kegs).
72A: Reminder to a forgetful judge on bowling night? (the ball's in your courtroom).
92A: What talk show guests have before the broadcast? (greenroom party).
107A: Sign outside a church lavatory? (no restroom for the wicked). The best one.
126A: Where a Monkee changes after a game? (Davy Jones' lockerroom).
There's so much nontheme fill to love...a plethora of Scrabbly letters and multiword answers, plus plenty of words that you just don't often see.
First, the multiwords...5A: Succeeded in (won at), 31A: Imported by plane (flown in), 84A: 1977 George Burns film (Oh, God!), 117A: Short-hop plane (air taxi), 131A: Handily defeated (aced out), 3D: Laredo or Nuevo Laredo (border town), 10D: 1976 horror film whose score won an Oscar (The Omen), 18D: Seldom-used golf club (one iron), 19D: Over (at an end), 39D: Offer to buy at auction (bid on), 49D: Host of public radio's "This American Life (Ira Glass), 50D: Cubs' protector (den mother), 58D: Attempt to trick (put-up job), 85D: "Right Place Wrong Time" singer, 1973 (Dr. John), 99D: Prescription phrase (one a day) and 105D: Singer with the #1 country album "80's Ladies" (K. T. Oslin).
Favorites crosses...for one reason or another.
17A: Drag show accessory (boa) and 17D: Eccentric friend on "Designing Women" (Bernice). Boa allowed me to guess her name correctly.
35A: "Let's go, Miguel!" (vamos) with 35D: __ 1, Yuri Gagarin's spacecraft (Vostok). Thank you, Spanish 101 and World History.
59A: Sharp turn (zig) with 59D: "Beetle Bailey" soldier (Zero).
65A: Sauce thickener (roux) with 52D: Increase, in a way (wax).
66A: Name in a hymn (Jesu) with 66D: Schmo (jerk)...let me clarify that what I like is the letter J .
67A: Worthless talk, in slang (bilge) with 57D: Rap enthusiast, in slang (B-boy)...good guesses, since I'm not familiar with either expression.
104A: Ring stats (TKOs) and 104D: Italian province or its capital (Trieste).
121A: Music with jazzlike riffs (ska) and 122D: Kind of beef (Kobe).
133A: 1964 Quinn role (Zorba) and 106D: Playful movement (scherzo).
A couple of days ago I didn't recognize the name of a band...and was chided for it by an anonymous reader. I got it this time. 90A: Band with the 1989 hit "Stand" (REM). You can hear it here, but I don't like it was well as "Losing My Religion."
Other clues and answers I liked:
1A: Literary elephant (Babar). Who doesn't like Babar? And who doesn't like getting the first answer?
36A: Wally's TV brother, with "the" (Beav).
78A: Early invader of Britain (Saxon).
115A: Satirical paper, with "The" (Onion). "America's Finest News Source." See for yourself here.
135A: Tasty bit (morsel). I didn't need to bake bread today, so I made dog biscuits. They must be tasty, because the boys went nuts when I took them out of the oven.
5D: Cereal topping (raisins).
9D: Religious retreats (ashrams).
14D: Day spa accessories (loofahs).
42D: Guthrie's follower at Woodstock (Baez). I saw the movie enough times that I almost think I was there. Ronald Ray-gun...zzzzzzap!
54D: Poland Spring competitor (Evian).
55D: Owen __ , John Irving character (Meany). Great story.
88D: Expensive strings (Strad).
108D: Company with a star logo (Texaco). That took too long to figure out, even though I know that "You can trust your car to the man who wears the star...the big, bright Texaco star."
There were a few things I didn't know but managed to get from crosses:
21A: Baseball Hall-of-Famer Edd (Roush).
99A: Poker game with four hole cards (Omaha)...never heard of it.
56D: "A maid with hair of gold," in an old song (Katy). I guess I don't know the old song.
68D: Rob of "Melrose Place" (Estes).
93D: Seine tributary (Oise).
100D: "Le Misanthrope" playwright (Molière ). I think we just had this, so I'd better remember it.
My favorite wrong answer...95D: Blanket holder (chest). I really wanted Linus, even if the crosses didn't make any sense.
That's it for tonight. Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.