I think Lynn Lempel has hit the big time! She's had several early week puzzles in the New York Times, but I think this is her first Sunday.
It was also, I'm embarrassed to say, the hardest Sunday puzzle I've done in a long, long time. Way to go, Lynn.
After my initial run through the across and down clues, I had fewer than a dozen answers, including 35A: "__ dreaming?" (Am I)...I wasn't, 49A: Weekend warrior's woe (ache), 52A: Reagan attorney general (Meese), 72A: Room sharer, often (sib), 12D: Lover boy? (Eros) and 42D: Title with a tilde (señor). Not much of a toehold.
I had a hard time making sense of the title, The Inside Dope. At first, I thought the name of a drug (probably illegal) would be hidden in each theme answer. No...wrong kind of dope. The theme answers are:
23A: Feature of some kids' cereals (cocoa flavor).
29A: Regular provider (gas station). Tee-hee. I just got that.
37A: Holder of the world record for the longest ovation on the operatic stage (80 minutes) (Placido Domingo). I didn't know that about him, but I would probably have joined in.
60A: Let the mind believe what it likes (humor oneself). This was the first one to fall into place, although I tried to fit in morphine when I was on the wrong track...no pun intended.
76A: Bastion of brotherhood (Masonic Lodge).
98A: Elementary school test package (reading battery). This is the only one I got because of the theme. Had battery...so it was easy to guess ding and go from there. Sadly, the word always reminds me of Edith Bunker.
109A: Dress for the return of cool weather (fall outfit).
117A: Not even close (worlds apart).
3D: Alaskan cruise sighting (Pacific humpback).
46D: Wasn't clear, as one's future (seemed uncertain). I thought that was the most clever theme answer.
There were several obscure (to me) answers. I got a few from Dogpile, which opened things up a little bit...worked the opposite direction and got a couple more. I just kept plodding along, but it felt like it took me forever to finish. I felt a real sense of accomplishment when I did!
Some of the obscure ones:
27A: Rita Hayworth title role of 1946 (Gilda).
50A: Grauman of Grauman's Chinese Theater (Sid).
85A: 1920s anarchist in a celebrated trial (Sacco).
95: Mexican revolutionary __ Hidalgo (Miguel).
106A: Portrait photographer Arbus (Diane). Why don't I know that?
107A: Ralph __, 1974 N.L. batting champ (Garr). I know why I don't know that one.
123A: Heinrich who wrote "Atta Troll" (Heine).
127A: Synthetic fabric (Arnel). I thought I knew fabric pretty well, but I've never heard of it. I did get 87A: Some cottons (lisles) with a letter or two in place.
17D: Documentary filmmaker Morris (Errol).
33D: Pay increase to keep up with inflation, in brief (COLA). Guessing that stands for Cost Of Living Allowance...or something like that. I must not work for the right places...I've never gotten a cost of living raise. Fortunately, merit raises work well for me.
82D: 1945 Colette novel (Gigi).
114D: Island-dotted lake of Northern Ireland (Erne).
At least those could be Googled...then there were the somewhat arbitrary answers...could have been anything, so nothing came to mind. 19A: Shooter's target (agate), 31A: Bollix up (flub), 44A: Eremites (loners), 51A: Swift gift (satire), 66A: Governessy (prim), 67A: Covers up (shrouds), 103A: Approaches aggressively (accosts), 113A: Overdo it, in a way (emote), 122A: Ones being shot at (enemy), 126A: Unpadded (terse), 11D: Some tubes (macaroni), 24D: Title on a child's bookshelf (fables), 86D: Spread some holiday joy (carolled), 88D: Quaint garden fixtures (sundials), 89D: O.K. (legit) and 95D: Reached the due date (matured).
There were some good multiword answers...again, several things might have fit, so it took some time to flesh them out. 5D: Preliminary events (lead-up), 8D: Gave up at last (caved in), 13D: Lights (sets fire to), 15D: It's sour (flat note), 69D: Show annoyance with (snap at) and 75D: Like some electronics (solid state).
Favorite words include 6A: Decorative inlay material (nacre), 34A: Aniselike herbs (fennels), 84A: Bird baked in a pie (squab)...mostly for the Q, 94A: "My Way" lyricist (Anka)...think I've heard that before but didn't remember, 96A: Brush makeup (sage)...clever, 9D: Ran amok (rioted), 14D: Speeds up (hastens), 16D: Disney duck (Louie)...took forever to think of him, 18D: Gets off the bottle (weans)...thought they meant the other bottle, 36D: Former Portuguese colony in China (Macau), 39D: Core groups (cadres), 47D: Where Monferrato wine comes from (Asti), 71D: Chef's hat (toque), 79D: Virulent virus (Ebola), 101D: Company whose production goes in cycles? (Yamaha) and 112D: Poor returns? (alms).
Most clever clue/answer pairing is 29D: Object of a vain wait (Godot). Too funny.
I had two very good sports guesses, so I'm quite proud. I got 72D: Sportsman of the Year co-winner of 1998 (Sosa) with only the first letter in place. Growing up in Florida made it fairly easy to guess 78D: Seminole's archrival (Gator) with the OR.
I'd best mention our biology lesson...the connected cluing at 80A: Uniters with 51-Down (ova/sperm). Does that pass the breakfast test? Doesn't matter...I did the puzzle in the afternoon.
I enjoyed my no-driving day. I baked bread, made beef stew for dinner, balanced my bank statement and solved the puzzle...all in my pajamas. It's been great.
That's it for this one. I'll be interested to see how you fared with it. Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.