[Note: This is the puzzle that appears in the Sunday L.A. Times newspaper. If you don't get the paper, you can find the puzzle here. Scroll down to see the write-up of today's syndicated puzzle.]
Theme: "Designers' Holiday" — Theme answers are puns based on fashion designers' names.
- 22A: Confident words about a designer doing this puzzle? (HILFIGER IT OUT).
- 32A: Encouragement from a designer's parents? (WE'RE PRADA YOU).
- 50A/61A: Comment to a mischievous designer? (YOU'VE BEEN UP DIOR OLD TRICKS AGAIN).
- 68A/84A: Comment about a designer's much-anticipated show? (I'VE BEEN WAITING VERSACE LONG TIME).
- 97A: Exclamation at a designer's show? (LAUREN BEHOLD).
- 114A: Words to a designer's baby? (PUCCI GUCCI KOO). I love that CHARO is also in the puzzle (19A: An ex of Xavier).
- 25A: Designer's initials (YSL).
- 109D: Designer Hugo (BOSS).
The other feature of Merl's puzzles that always stands out to me is his use of "partials": typically small words that you wouldn't see in the grid but for their inclusion in common phrases. Today's partials include:
- 41A: Little ___ effect (OR NO).
- 74A: "This ___ a drill" (IS NOT).
- 91A: Words to an old chap (I SAY).
- 11D: Go ___ further (A STEP).
- 60D: "You're ___ talk!" (ONE TO).
- 70D: If ___ (should circumstances warrant) (NEEDS BE).
- 78D: "Horton Hears ___" (A WHO).
- 117D: "Indeed ___!" (I DO).
I'm always pretty sure I'll see a couple answers I just plain don't know in a Merl puzzle.
- 44A: College town near Eureka, Calif. (ARCATA). Home of Humboldt State University.
- 53A: Pointed arch (OGIVE).
- 106A: John who wed Shirley Temple (AGAR). Wanted it to be Black.
- 12D: Lip or amyl ending (-ASE). I have no idea what this means.
- 35D: Pope Nicholas III's family name (ORSINI). I know I've seen this before, but I couldn't come up with it. Hope I can next time.
- 20A: Cugat's shakers (MARACAS). I just now noticed that Cugat is the Xavier referred to in the CHARO clue. Awesome.
- 27A: U.S. school near Juarez (UTEP). The University of Texas at El Paso. It's in crosswords a lot, so try to remember it!
- 40A: U.K. music label (EMI). I can never remember if it's EMI or BMI, which is also music-related (Broadcast Music Incorporated).
- 67A: Fan favorite (IDOL). You know what's coming, right? I can't help myself.
- 82A: Boston Garden legend (ORR). I always want this to be Larry Bird and it's always Bobby Orr.
- 104A: Secret rival? (BAN). Deodorant!
- 105A: Past partners (EXES).
- 119A: Shrunken, polluted Asian body (ARAL SEA). Fun to see the whole name of this body of water instead of just the ARAL part. (Clearly, I need to get out more.)
- 123A: Ladies' escorts (LORDS). Raise your hand if you entered gents first.
- 1D: Stiff and sore (ACHY). Yes I like country music. No I'm not going to include a video of "Achy Breaky Heart." You're welcome.
- 5D: ___ water (cologne) (TOILET). Not a real common crossword answer for some reason.
- 16D: Grosse ___, Mich. (ILE). Tried to abbreviate pointe at first.
- 47D: UFO shape, often (DISC). PuzzleSon just asked me about Area 51 the other day. Oh boy, here we go.
- 93D: Full of nuance (SUBTLE). Great clue for a great word.
- 115D: Hue: abbr. (CLR.). This one hurts a little.
Everything Else — 1A: Chance to strike out on one's own (AT BAT); 6A: Texas oil city (ODESSA); 12A: Sour character (ACIDITY); 21A: Snack brand giant (SARA LEE); 24A: Clear (EVIDENT); 26A: The Beatles, e.g. (LADS); 29A: "To what ___?" (END); 30A: Fishing supplies (REELS); 37A: Refine, as metal (SMELT); 39A: Asian occasion (TET); 43A: Designer bag, perhaps (TOTE); 47A: Abbr. after Chris Dodd's name (D-CONN.); 49A: Create dresses (SEW); 55A: Prove fallible (ERR); 56A: High-minded (NOBLE); 57A: Tortilla dough? (PESO); 58A: You can skip the flat ones (STONES); 59A: Mister, at a misión (SEÑOR); 64A: Dark and atmospheric (NOIR); 66A: Coll. degrees (BAS); 78A: If nothing changes (AS IT IS); 79A: Hearing things (EARS); 80A: Jay's heir (CONAN); 83A: Welcome ___ (WAGON); 87A: Home of "True Blood" (HBO); 88A: Pushes (GOADS); 90A: Wolflike (LUPINE); 92A: Hefty refs. (OEDS); 94A: Detectives, briefly (PIS); 95A: Actress ___ Dawn Chong (RAE); 96A: Hammer parts (PEENS); 102A: Slumber stopper (ALARM); 107A: Escapee alert, for ex. (APB); 110A: Beat by a lot, as a record (SHATTER); 118A: Steak knives, etc. (CUTLERY); 120A: Worry-free places (EDENS); 121A: Dunk (IMMERSE); 122A: 1962 Roger Corman film, "Tales of ___" (TERROR); 2D: What you're doing (THIS); 3D: Bowling alley feature (BALL RETURN); 4D: Cartoon bark (ARF); 6D: Crew equipment (OARS); 7D: Gillette's Soft & ___ (DRI); 8D: Dig in (EAT); 9D: Use S.O.S on (SCOUR); 10D: Pan-fry (SAUTÉ); 13D: Collapsed (CAVED IN); 14D: Skater Slutskaya (IRINA); 15D: Any guy, to a beatnik (DADDYO); 17D: Easy multiplier (TEN); 18D: Nevertheless (YET); 20D: RN responsibilities (MEDS); 23D: Hoedown partner (GAL); 28D: Parboil (PRECOOK); 31D: Mtn. road stat (ELEV.); 32D: Taken off a liquid diet? (WEANED); 33D: Words to Brutus (ET TU); 34D: Love, to Livy (AMOR); 36D: Jagged (UNEVEN); 37D: Eye woes (STYES); 38D: Actress Julianne (MOORE); 39D: Immune system component (T-CELL); 42D: Is behind, in a way (OWES); 44D: Blood-typing letters (ABO); 45D: Drill a wider hole in, perhaps (REBORE); 46D: Informed opinion (APPRAISAL); 48D: Staying put (NOT GOING); 51D: Dressing regally (ENROBING); 52D: Believer in a nonintervening God (DEIST); 54D: Soccer scores (GOALS); 58D: Woebegone (SAD); 62D: Slope lifts (T-BARS); 63D: Join up (SIGN ON); 65D: Pluralized y (IES); 68D: Author Allende (ISABEL); 69D: Tessio in "The Godfather" (VIGODA); 71D: Some involve attrition (WARS); 72D: Cooling pouch for perishables (ICE PAD); 73D: "Honest!" ("NO LIE!"); 75D: Partier's prop (NOISE MAKER); 76D: TV money maven (ORMAN); 77D: Low cards (TREYS); 81D: Prop finish (-ANE); 84D: Futile (VAIN); 85D: Tress trait (CURL); 86D: Stadium section (TIER); 89D: Keys (OPENERS); 96D: Doorstep delivery (PARCEL); 98D: Film board, e.g. (RATER); 99D: Certain exile, for short (EXPAT); 100D: Une ___ (1 a.m., in Paris) (HEURE); 101D: Muppet in a can (OSCAR); 102D: Sonoran Desert cry? (AGUA); 103D: ___ insects (varnish resin source) (LAC); 106D: Teen follower (-AGER); 108D: Duck's home (POND); 110D: Empirical method subj. (SCI.); 111D: Sound happy, maybe (HUM); 112D: Dough-filled convenience? (ATM); 113D: Deli choice (RYE); 116D: Metrics intro (ISO-).