Theme: Herbal Tease - One word in each theme entry is replaced by a sound-alike herb.
23A. Observation about sprouting aromatic plants? : SOMETHINGS ARE MINT-TO-BE. Somethings are meant to be.
36A. "Yes, I'm positive this seed is in five-spice powder"? : THAT'S MY FENNEL ANSWER. That's my final answer. Not fond of fennel or the Five-spice powder. My dad used star anise in meat dishes.
55A. "We should whip up some pickle flavoring"? : LET'S MAKE A DILL. Let's Make a Deal.
80A. Like something even better than a pungent herb? : BEYOND BAY LEAF. Beyond belief.
96A. Incense hung in two places? : MYRRH MYRRH ON THE WALL. Mirror Mirror on the Wall. Never thought of Myrrh as herb.
117A. Getting by with a loaner herb? : LIVING ON BORROWED THYME. Living on borrowed time. Pure homophone.
Very nice puzzle title!
Grid spanners can make things easier on a week day puzzle, but they're tricky to grid for a 21*21. Plus, Robin has a couple long 19's to deal with. Hence, 6 theme entries today. An extra 7th in the very middle row would make this extra tough, even if it's short.
1. Pricey sweaters : MOHAIRS. Angora goats.
8. They remove bad marks : ERASERS
15. Vertebral bones : SACRA
20. "__ Flame": Bangles ballad : ETERNAL
21. One in the running : NOMINEE
22. Blood of the gods : ICHOR. Learned from doing Xword.
26. Elementary fivesome : A E I O U. And 49. Alphabet trio : BCD
27. Roo's refuge : POUCH
28. Soul-searching events? : SEANCES. I love "Ghost". So good.
29. XIII x IV : LII
31. __-mo replay : SLO
32. "Washboard" muscles : ABS. Which angel do you like the best?
35. __ y Plata: Montana motto : ORO
43. Period relative : ERA
44. Trifle : SOU
45. Ultimate goal : END ALL
46. Easy target : SAP
48. Where It.'s at : EUR. Pay attention to the . in It.
51. Chinese tea : CHA. Literally "tea". Yum Cha ("Drink tea") is a daily activity for retired people in Guangzhou/Hong Kong. Dim sum & Cha & lots of idle gossip. It often takes 2-3 hours. Young people usually "Yum Cha" on weekends.
52. "Sideways" co-star Paul : GIAMATTI
60. Proceed (from) : EMANATE
60. Proceed (from) : EMANATE
61. Mythical sea nymphs : NEREIDS. This word reminds me of RESTAURANT in my early days of English learning. Hard to spell. Now looking back, nothing complicated in RESTAURANT.
62. Yield to gravity : SAG
64. 2005 Nobel-winning dramatist : PINTER (Harold). He wrote "The French Lieutenant's Woman".
65. Tears down, in Dover : RASES. Our Razes.
68. Broadband letters : DSL
69. Hägar creator Browne : DIK
71. Can't forgo : NEEDS
72. Bear witness : ATTEST
74. "My country, __ ..." : TIS
76. Every garçon has one : CEDILLA. The mark under that c. I bet this clue will stump some garçons. "I have a what?"
78. Pasture critters : GRAZERS
85. Black-and-tan terrier : AIREDALE
87. Center of gravity? : VEE
88. "__ rang?" : YOU
89. Aladdin's monkey : ABU
90. California's Big __ : SUR
91. Patio-brewed beverage : SUN TEA
93. Many IRA payees : SRS
95. Stimpy's sidekick : REN. "Ren & Stimpy".
103. Sushi tuna : AHI
104. Part of MYOB : OWN
105. "Nerts!" : BAH
106. Poetry Out Loud org. : NEA
107. Working like a dog : SLAVING
111. Prevent : DEBAR
113. Razzle-dazzle : ECLAT
122. __ acid : AMINO
123. Groundbreaking Reagan appointee : O'CONNOR. First woman on the Supreme Court. Tough lady. I think she intimidated even Terry Gross.
124. Showed disdain : SNEERED
125. Forms : MODES
126. Positively charged particles : PROTONS
127. Leather treaters : TANNERS
1. Cactus League spring training city : MESA. Cactus League is in Arizona. Grapefruit League is in Florida.
2. Native Oklahoman : OTOE
3. Half up front? : HEMI. As in, Hemisphere. Tricky, as DEMI, SEMI fit too.
4. Biological ring : AREOLA
5. Goes with one's gut : INTUITS
6. "Yay, team!" : RAH
7. Maidenform buy : SLIP
8. Swamp : ENGULF
9. The "R" in Edward R. Murrow : ROSCOE. Never knew this.
10. Eastern nursemaid : AMAH. Lots of Filipino AMAHS in Hong Kong. Cheap labor. Plus, they speak English.
11. McCartney title : SIR
12. San Diego-to-Albuquerque dir. : ENE
13. "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" band : REM
14. Jorge's half-dozen : SEIS
15. Bollywood strings : SITARS. 65. Music for 15-Down : RAGAS
16. Urgent come-on : ACT NOW
17. Prefix with -aholic : CHOC
18. Boxer's attire : ROBE
19. Olympian warrior : ARES. 86. Warrior companion of 19-Down : ENYO. Learning moment for me.
24. Always butting in : NOSY
25. Old electronic display source : NEON LAMP
30. Weatherman's line : ISOBAR
32. They're history : ANNALS
33. Murphy __ : BED. Never saw one in person.
34. Blast furnace refuse : SLAG
36. Honest : TRUE
37. "The Wizard of Id" co-creator Johnny : HART. The "B.C." cartoonist.
38. Tossed in, as a losing poker hand : MUCKED. Don't know this term.
39. Radar's soda brand : NEHI
40. Byron's words before "'Tis but the truth in masquerade" : A LIE. "And, after all, what is a lie? 'Tis but the truth in masquerade." Don Juan.
41. Probate concern : ESTATE
42. Snitched : RATTED
43. Flotsam or Jetsam in "The Little Mermaid" : EEL. Nice new clue!
47. Beach resort strolling spots : PIERS
50. Jefferson, for one : DEIST
51. MP3 holders : CDS
53. As a rule : MAINLY
54. Temper : ANNEAL
56. Earn a blessing? : SNEEZE. Not sure what Boomer is sensitive to. He sneezes a lot. Probably some kind of scents. Going to Kohl's or some other department stores can set him off.
57. __ around: wasted time : MESSED
58. Wing it : AD LIB
59. Weighed down : LADEN
63. Euphoric : GIDDY
66. Lobby brightener : ATRIUM
67. Characterized by twinkling : STARRY
70. Put the __ on: quash : KIBOSH
73. Criticizing harshly : TRASHING
75. U.K.'s longest river : SEVERN
76. Country singer David Allan __ : COE. Never heard of him. Not a country music fan. Wow, look at his hair!
77. Polo VIP : LAUREN. Ralph Lauren. Polo shirt.
79. Gentrification target : SLUM
81. "You betcha!" : YEAH
82. Viscount's superior : EARL
83. Third man? : ABEL
84. Kicks : FUN
92. Credit checker Experian, pre-1996 : TRW
94. Equal-ize? : SWEETEN. Equal sweetener.
97. Gorge : RAVINE
98. Safari sights : RHINOS. JD had a few Safari trips.
99. Moon of Uranus : OBERON. Named after the king in "A Midsummer Night's Dream".
100. Pyle portrayer : NABORS (Jim)
101. Leave out of the freezer : THAW
102. City SW of Essen : AACHEN. See Essen a bit to the east?
107. Bridge feat : SLAM. Hi there Spitzboov!
108. Chauffeured car : LIMO
109. Voracious : AVID. Anyone noticed the similarities between Clear Ayes & Yellowrocks? Both knowledgeable, curious & voracious readers.
110. Gunk : GOOP
111. Villain on Crab Key : DR NO. Thanks for the "Villain" hint.
112. Symbol on a staff : REST
114. Ancient harplike instrument : LYRE
115. AKC part: Abbr. : AMER
116. Nugent and Turner : TEDS
118. ATM maker : NCR
119. Heckle : BOO
120. Fort Erie's prov. : ONT. China uses provinces too. 23 provinces. Lu Lingzi is from Shenyang Province. Due to China's One-Child policy, she was her parents' only kid.
121. Letters from your parents? : DNA. Nice clue.