Showing posts with label Merl Reagle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Merl Reagle. Show all posts

Dec 16, 2009

Wednesday December 16, 2009 Merl Reagle

Theme: Note-orious - Three consecutive musical notes are embedded in each theme entry.

16A. Comfort: CONSOLATION. So La Ti. Thought it's Sol.

61A. Sister Sledge hit: WE ARE FAMILY. Re Fa Mi.

39. Queen whose name contains three apt words in a row, as does each of this puzzle's four longest answers: LATIFAH. La Ti Fa. I like Queen Latifah in "Chicago". Then we had A ROW (5D. In __: lined up). Undesirable duplication.

10D. Outnumber all others: PREDOMINATE. Re Do Mi.

24D. Pooped: ALL TIRED OUT. Ti Re Do.

And two more musical instrument references from Merl Reagle, who plays keyboards:

52D. Instruments with pedals: HARPS. I don't associate harps with pedals.

64D. Concert finale?: INA. Concertina. Stumped me.

Unusual numbers of tricky and fresh clues for a Wednesday, no? Despite the heavy proper names, the puzzle itself is not hard. Fair crossings.


1. First name in nursing: CLARA (Barton). Founder of American Red Cross.

6. Bridges of Los Angeles County: JEFF. He's "The Dude" in "The Big Lebowski", directed the Coen brothers. Hollywood/LA is in LA County. The clue reminds me of "The Bridges of Madison County". Very romantic!

14. Shooting Starr: BELLE. Have never heard of Belle Starr. Wikipedia says she's a notorious American outlaw. I could only recall Ken Starr.

15. Cry that's a laugh backward: RAH. Nice new clue.

18. Eddie's "Green Acres" co-star: EVA (Gabor)

19. Contraction that's an "i" dropper: 'TWERE. Contraction of "it were". Got me. I liked the "eye"/"i" dropper pun.

22. Rhyme scheme used in a villanelle: ABAA. Maybe Clear Ayes can find us a villanelle today.

25. Follow: ENSUE

28. The __ Parade: ROSE

29. Co-creator of "The View": WALTERS (Barbara)

31. It gets let off: STEAM. Let off steam.

33. Specter on the Hill: ARLEN. Capitol Hill. Senator from PA.

34. Actor Dillon: MATT. He's awesome in "Crash".

35. Alcatraz, e.g.: Abbr.: ISL (Island). "The Rock" is a great movie.

38. Nap or nip preceder: CAT

42. PBS funder: NEA (National Endowment for the Arts)

43. Go down a slippery slope: SKI. Vivid clue.

44. Work without __: A NET

45. Mil. schools: ACADS (Academies)

47. Play delayers: RAINS. Twins new stadium has no roof.

49. Beethoven specialties: SONATAS. Beautiful "Moonlight Sonata".

51. "Mermaids" actress: CHER. Was ignorant of the film.

53. Online business: E-TAIL

55. __ Sweeney, Ethel Merman's "Anything Goes" role: RENO. The answer emerges itself.

56. "You __ be there": HAD TO

58. "The Crucible," e.g.: DRAMA. Arthur Miller play.

60. Guillermo's gold: ORO. Guillermo is the Spanish form of the name "William".

67. PC core: CPU

68. Thinks the world of: LOVES. "Ai" in Chinese. "Wo Ai Ni" = "I love you". Chinese does not have singular/plural forms for verbs.

69. Oscar de la __: RENTA. Laura Bush's favorite designer.

70. Sunrise direction, in Stuttgart: OST. German for "east". New to me, so is the German city Stuttgart.

71. Flip out: SNAP

72. Lewis or Lois colleague: CLARK. Lewis & Clark Expedition. Lois & Clark, Superman.


1. L x VI: CCC. 50 x 6 = 300

2. Oft-visited pub room: LOO. Nailed it.

4. Say another way: RESTATE

6. Ballet leaps: JETES (zhuh-TEY). I forgot. Here is a clip. PLIES is the "Ballet bends".

7. Passing Manning: ELI. Quarterback for the NY Giants. Nice rhyme.

8. __-Jo: Olympic sprinter's nickname: FLO. Lovely nickname.

9. Sedge-filled wetlands: FENS

11. #1 picks: FAVES

12. Phillies all-star slugger Utley: CHASE. Second baseman for the Phillies. I bet Dennis was excited to see Merl's byline today. He's been solving Merl's Sunday for years.

14. Tractor shelters: BARN. I like the double-syllable sounds of the clue.

17. Look like a wolf: LEER. Was picturing a real wolf.

21. Tax-deferring option, briefly: IRA

22. Spy plane acronym: AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System). Completely unknown to me.

23. Netanyahu's successor: BARAK (Ehud). Same pronunciation as Barack?

26. Gp. with F-16s: USAF

27. Henri's conclusion?: ETTA. No idea. I suppose it refers to Henrietta the town in NY.

30. Zhou __: EN-LAI. Mandarin Chinese. Cantonese is Chow En-Lai.

32. A Coen brother: ETHAN. Pride of Minnesota.

34. Where Ben Bernanke got his Ph.D.: MIT. Somehow I thought it's Yale. Bernanke was just named as Time Person of the Year 2009. Netanyahu graduated from MIT too.

36. Ford Taurus, e.g.: SEDAN

37. Calf catcher: LASSO

40. Actress Hathaway: ANNE. She's in "The Devil Wears Prada".

46. Apple topping: CARAMEL. Sweet!

48. Word before or after thou: ART. New spin on a common crossword fill.

49. Foal fathers: SIRES

50. Norse saint: OLAF. No Olaf/Olav wobbling today.

51. Intro to -holic: CHOCO. Chocoholic.

54. TV spot pro: AD REP. Fell into the ADMAN trap.

57. Temple's team: OWLS. Wikipedia says Temple was the first school in the United States to adopt the owl as its symbol.

59. Painter Chagall: MARC

62. Awfully long time: EON

Answer grid.

Ming tian jian!


Aug 4, 2009

Interview with Merl Reagle

Merl Reagle is simply one of the best constructors in the US. He is just a natural. His puzzles often remind me of Sam Snead's sweet swing: beautiful, effortless and distinctive. Laugh-out-funny too.

It's interesting for me to watch Merl create a puzzle in the documentary "Wordplay". Even more fascinating to see Bill Clinton & Jon Stewart actually solve Merl's puzzle in the movie. I was also mesmerized by Merl's crossword discussions on Oprah. And of course, the puzzles he made for "The Simpsons"/NY Times and his own Philadelphia Inquirer syndication are just breathtaking.

Dennis has been raving about Merl's humor, playfulness & wit, and several constructors I've interviewed have also mentioned Merl as one of their favorite constructors. I asked Merl a few questions, and I was very honored and pleased that he provided me with such great answers.

Can you tell us a bit about your childhood? What inspired you to create your first crossword when you were only 6 years old?

When I was very young I was into Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys. I was an early talker and an early reader and when I was 5 or 6 I could spell the names of all the kids in my first-grade class, so I started doing the same thing with their names that I'd done with the toys -- making little connected structures out of them (on graph paper). I found out many years later that no one in my entire extended family was a "puzzle person," but I did learn that my mother's father had been a weaver by trade, so I've always wondered if I got the "word weaving" gene from him.

Crossword constructing seems to be very time-consuming and constructors are not well-compensated, when and how did you decide that you were going to make a career out of it?

I was living in Santa Monica CA in the early 1980s and was making crosswords for a number of puzzle magazines, but mainly for Dell crosswords, Games magazine, and Margaret Farrar's Simon & Schuster books. I would fly into New York each year because of the crossword tournament but I would hang out at the Dell office and at Games and even had several two-hour lunches with Margaret in her 96th Street apartment just off Central Park. I got a great education from these experiences because of their different priorities -- Dell and Margaret had a more conservative approach, and Games was trying to be more modern. At first I was not thinking of making a living at crosswords -- I was writing for TV game shows by day and working on film scripts by night and doing crosswords on the side. But a friend of mine in L.A. (who is now a TV producer) said, "you know, millions of people are trying to work in TV and movies but very few people are trying to make a career out of crosswords, and making crosswords is something you seem to have been born to do." And to be honest, there were two definite down sides to freelancing -- you had to sell all rights, and you had to make lots and lots of puzzles in order to make decent money, and making lots of puzzles was more work than fun. Plus I felt that I'd finally learned enough about the solving public to make a go of it in newspapers, which was where the vast majority of solvers were anyway. I had a lot of theme ideas that I thought were pretty funny that I'd been saving in case I ever got a regular gig -- and the chance finally came in 1985 when the San Francisco Examiner needed a puzzlemaker for a new Sunday magazine called Image. I'd lived in San Francisco for three years, knew the area well, and got the job. They paid more money per puzzle than crossword magazines could pay, I retained all rights, and I started using all of the humor-oriented puzzles I'd been saving up. Plus, I had to make only one a week, so I threw all my efforts into making that one puzzle as good as it could be. With San Francisco as a base, I was now ready to try syndication. My girlfriend at the time, Marie Haley, who is now my better half, said we should fly to different cities and newspaper conventions to try to talk editors into switching from their Sunday puzzles to mine. I never would've done this on my own -- Marie has always been the driving force behind the business -- but once we had these editors cornered I would quote some of the gags from the puzzles and they would actually crack up, so a lot of them did try us out. And all the ones who gave us a chance, kept us -- we still have all of those jobs to this day. The Hartford Courant was the first paper we syndicated to, followed by the Seattle Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Los Angeles Times in 1997 (in the Sunday magazine), the Arizona Daily Star, and many others. We added the Washington Post last year. I think we're up to 60 papers now.

What is the most unforgettable puzzle you've ever made? Why is it so special?

Actually, since I've been putting out a Sunday puzzle every week for 24 years I've made at least a couple dozen or so puzzles that turned out especially well, two of which I still get mail about -- one was called "Gridlock" and involved a pretty thick traffic jam of car names crossing in the center (it was featured on "Nightline with Ted Koppel"), and the other was called "Shades of John D. MacDonald," which involved a trail of colors winding symmetrically through the diagram, all taken from the titles of author John D. MacDonald's 21 Travis McGee detective novels (the odds of this puzzle actually working were, like, a billion to one, but it worked). However, two recent puzzles that come to mind are the two "Simpsons" puzzles I did this past November as tie-ins to the episode that featured Will Shortz and me in cameo roles. The one I did for the Times, which was actually featured in the episode, was a real challenge to make for three reasons -- 1) there was a secret 21-letter message from Homer to Lisa hidden diagonally in the grid, 2) there was another secret message from Homer, this one 144 letters long, that was spelled out by the initial letters of every clue, and 3) the overt theme of the puzzle was secretly related to the episode's plot -- when Lisa finds out that Homer bet against her in the crossword tournament, she changes her last name in protest, so the puzzle's surface theme involves punny changes to famous people's last names, like "Arnold Polymer" (clued as "Golfer who invented the all-plastic club"). There was nothing overt in the puzzle to indicate any connection to "The Simpsons" -- you had to watch the episode to realize that it contained two hidden messages. However, in the other "Simpsons" puzzle -- the one I made for my own markets and which came out on the same day -- I got to relax a little more and make an overtly "Simpsons" puzzle, hiding the names of characters in all the theme answers. But even this led to some amazing things -- 1) in order to hide Maggie's name it was truly fortuitous that the school whose students are known as "Aggies" happens to end with the letter M -- thus allowing "Maggie" to hide perfectly in "The Texas A&M Aggies." 2) It's kind of amazing that "Bart" can be clued as "Homer's imp son," which is the name "Homer Simpson" simply divided up differently. And 3) since most Sunday crosswords have 21 squares on a side, I thought -- totally on a whim -- to count the number of notes in the famous closing section of Danny Elfman's "Simpsons" theme music -- and I just about had a cow when they totaled exactly 21! So, as a counterpoint to Homer's hidden 21-letter diagonal message in the Times puzzle, which ran from the upper left to the lower right, this puzzle had 21 music notes running the other way, from the lower left to the upper right. Funny how "21" seems to crop up in the strangest places.

What is a perfect puzzle to you? How did you decide that your puzzles were going to be funny and punny?

To me a perfect puzzle is one that is extremely entertaining and extremely well-crafted, and has a seemingly perfect title, all of which I realize sounds extremely vague, so I'll try to explain. In the first letter I ever got from Margaret Farrar -- when I sent her my first puzzles in 1966 -- she said that crosswords should be "entertaining first," and since I was always kind of a funny kid, "entertaining" to me basically meant "funny." I think I found my sense of humor early on by watching Warner Bros. cartoons and "The Honeymooners." But an entertaining puzzle can take many forms -- as long as the solver has a great time solving every square inch of it, that's entertainment. By well-crafted I mean that the fill (that is, the non-theme words) contains no crosswordese and is a balance of colorful words and vocabulary, crisply and cleverly clued, and that the theme is very consistent but at the same time full of surprises. (In my case I often try to leave my best theme answer for the bottom right corner, as if it were the punchline to the whole puzzle). And this may not be a goal for others, but for me personally, the perfect puzzle should have one more thing -- a life off the page, and by that I mean that the theme, whatever it is, should be inherently interesting to any literate person with a playful turn of mind, not just a crossword fan. This allows crosswords to be talked about in a more mainstream way, not just among puzzle fans. If the puzzle is about language quirks, then it should spark great recognition on the part the solver ("Why are amateurs always rank? Why is daylight always broad?") If there are gags in the puzzle they should be real-world funny, not "crossword funny." I'll admit to having done my share of awful puns, like, "I'm not a bad duck; I'm just mallardjusted." But what I really want to do is direct, starting with "Last Orangutango in Paris." Yes, loud groaning counts as

Do you still only use pencil and paper for construction? What kind of tools do you use for reference checks?

No, I use Crossword Compiler now, simply because it's a lot faster -- no erasing! But otherwise I construct the old-fashioned way, without using a database. For cluing I use Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database a lot, but I double-check everything with Google searches. Plus, I have notebooks full of clues I've thought of and collected over the past 30 years.

Where do you get your construction inspiration? What kind of books/magazines do you read regularly?

Puzzle ideas pretty much come from everywhere, but I always prefer that they have some connection to reality. A couple years ago, when the Geico cavemen started getting popular, I thought: if there really were cavemen working among us today and they were, as the commercials said, very sensitive about the caveman stereotype, what things should you never say to them around the office? So i made a long list of things -- like, never say "I had to drag my wife to a game last night," or "Hey, no need to reinvent the wheel," or "So I gather," etc., and you could pretty much tell the whole idea to a non-puzzle fan and they'd be able to appreciate it as much as a solver would.

When we were buying our house in Florida, our real estate agent actually said, "I lost your number, so I had look up your address," and that sounded so close to "I had to look up your dress" that I immediately made a note of it -- not just that it had humor possibilities but that it hinged on "ad" being missing from "address," and perhaps each theme answer could be a common expression with the "ad" removed, and thus the puzzle could be called "The First Commercial-Free Crossword." I'm sure most constructors get their ideas in very similar ways; I just like them best when they lead to a very mainstream type of humor.

The main things I read are just newspapers and nonfiction books that sound interesting from their authors' appearances on talk shows, or on Book TV. I kind of read all over the place.

Besides the Philadelphia Inquirer/San Francisco/Washington Post Sunday puzzle and LA Times Magazine puzzle, what are your other regular crossword engagements?

I make a puzzle for the tournament every year, I make the puzzle every other month for AARP The Magazine, and I do a lot of special projects, but the weekly crossword is my main thing.

How has the crossword landscape changed since you first started? What's your view on the future of crossword?

When I sold my first puzzles to the Times in the 1960s and '70s crosswords were still very much in the old-school style. Even though Margaret Farrar and Will Weng strongly discouraged obscurities and crosswordese, such answers showed up in puzzles anyway as if there were no rules against them. Games magazine changed all of this, and I learned three valuable lessons -- 1) From Will Shortz: don't be afraid to add a black square or two if it allows the fill to be 100 per cent better. Wide-open grids are fine but not if they contain a lot of dreck. 2) From Mike Shenk: no matter how impressive the interlock is, always make sure that the three-letter words are real words, not weird abbreviations or "pluralized prefixes." And 3) From Henry Hook: try to think of common answers that contain unusual letter combinations -- like FTDIXNJ, which is simply how "Fort Dix, New Jersey" is written on envelopes -- because this adds a level of difficulty that has nothing to do with obscurity. Overall, the Games approach was really a major change in what a crossword should be, a philosophical shift, in a way, and I try to make every puzzle with these ideas in mind. I don't always succeed, but I try.

As to the future of crosswords, I think it's clear that online is the direction they're going. But I think crosswords could play a big role in helping newspapers survive, if editors would only let them. Puzzles are one of the main reasons people even buy the paper, so I think newspapers should be expanding their puzzle sections, not reducing them, with ads on the sides to help pay for them. Plus, crosswords should be laid out better -- and editors need look no further than their local supermarket, where the crossword magazines are, to see how a crossword should look on a page. I can't tell you how many times I've dealt with designers who don't seem to understand that a crossword is not like a newspaper article -- your eyes do not make nice fluid movements from line to line; rather, they jump constantly, from the clues, to the tiny numbers in the grid, back to the clues, scanning and jumping thousands of times on a Sunday-size puzzle -- which isn't easy for eyeballs that are over 50 years old. In fact, virtually every designer I've dealt with on newspapers actually resents hearing about this. I realize the economy is down but I think that if newspapers ran more puzzles -- and to be honest, more puzzle contests -- they'd attract more readers. They did this a lot in the early 1900s and I think they'd have a lot to gain by doing it now.

What puzzles do you solve every day? Who are your favorite constructors?

I usually solve whatever puzzle I can get my hands when I'm out of the house, like when I'm at Starbucks in the morning. It's usually the New York Times on Friday and Saturday, and the L.A. Times Syndicate puzzle all week long because it's in my local paper. And even though I I'm sort of known for making humorous puzzles, I prefer to solve the hard, tricky ones and the wide-open themeless ones. So my favorite constructors are Patrick Berry, Mike Shenk, Frank Longo, Manny Nosowsky, Paula Gamache, Trip Payne, Brendan Quigley, Byron Walden, Sherry Blackard, and the many other constructors (whose names I can't immediately think of) who make great themeless puzzles on Friday and Saturday (and who made them for Peter Gordon when the Sun puzzle existed). Among the "old guard," my favorites were Jack Luzzatto and A.J. Santora.

10) Besides constructing crossword, what else do you do for fun?

I play keyboards -- not well, but it sounds like I know what I'm doing -- and I've written a lot of melodic pieces, probably about 50 hours' worth if I recorded them all back to back. I played keyboards in a rock band in the early 1970s and then was part of a theater group in Tucson AZ that did all-original plays and musicals, and I wrote the music for the musicals (we did about a dozen altogether, with about ten songs per show). I also collect movie soundtracks and have a nearly complete collection of film composer Bernard Herrmann's work -- he scored "Citizen Kane," "The Day the Earth Stood Still, "Psycho," Taxi Driver," and a ton of other films. My current favorite film composer is Thomas Newman, who scored "The Shawshank Redemption" among many others. I'm also a big animation fan (I have a big collection of classic cartoons), so it really was like a dream come true to be in an episode of "The Simpsons."

Additional links:

Merl's crossword discussions on Oprah.

2) Merl's Sunday puzzle.

Apr 19, 2009

Sunday April 19, 2009 Merl Reagle

Theme: TV Shows I'd Like (To those who solved Dan Naddor's "Put a Lid on It!" puzzle, please scroll down the screen).

26A: TV reality show about owners willing to do anything to sell their domiciles?: DESPERATE HOUSE WISE (Desperate Housewives)

33A: TV comedy about a guy who keeps losing his patients?: DENTIST THE MENACE (Dennis the Menace)

57A: TV drama set in a deli?: SLAW AND ORDERS (Law and Order)

65A: With 76 Across, TV game show that requires no knowledge whatsoever?: ARE YOU SMARTER THAN

76A: See 65 Across: A CHEESE GRATER (Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?)

93A: TV comedy about being in a foreclosure?: MORTGAGE AND MINDY (Mork & Mindy)

104A: TV cartoon about a guy who's poor and not much of a dresser?: SLUMDOG SQUAREPANTS (SpongeBob SquarePants)

Ah, my first Merl Reagle LAT puzzle.

Have you seen "Wordplay"? Merl is featured prominently in the movie. I learned a few months ago that his name Merl/Merle is a kind of blackbird. His syndicated puzzle appears in Dennis's Philadelphia Inquirer every Sunday. They are always punny and funny, though the humor often escapes me. He does not use computer to construct puzzle, always pencil and paper. A natural. A genius.

Unfortunately I did not have enough time to really enjoy this puzzle. Hope you liked it. Lots of clever clues. I solved and blogged Dan Naddor's "Put a Lid on It!" earlier.


1A: Type of adapter: AC/DC

5A: Kevin's Oscar-winning role" in "A Fish Called Wanda": OTTO. Have never seen this Kevin Klein movie.

18A: Dragon's abode: LAIR. I have no idea where dragon lives.

19A: Random payoff: DROP

21A: Show your face? SHAVE. Good clue.

22A: Instant: IMMEDIATE

24A: Sister of Clio: ERATO. The Poetic Muse. Clio is the History Muse.

25A: Facts-of-life course, briefly: SEX ED. I stared at SEXED for a long time.

29A: Floor or ceiling support: JOIST

42A: Bobby Darin's label until 1963: ATCO (ATlantic COporation). Now owned by Warner Music Group. I was unware of that.

43A: Volga feeder: OKA. See this map.

44A: Drink with tempura: SAKE. Japanese rice wine. Mirin is also rice wine, used in cooking.

49A: Cadets' org: ROTC

53A: Tale-with-a point guy: AESOP. All his tales have a point, a moral point.

55A: Stinking: NOISOME. New word to me. It looks noisy rather than "Stinking".

60A: Spike TV, before: TNN

64A: Added bit of news: UPDATE

69A: Cellphones started one: NEW ERA

71A: Avid and then some: RABID

72A: Timber wolf: LOBO. I've never seen a LOBO wolf before.

73A: Classic British war film, "The __ Busters": DAM. See this poster. Not a familiar film to me.

79A: Ming, for one: DYNASTY. Ming DYNASTY ruled from 1368 to 1644. It's followed by Qing, the last DYNASTY in China. In Chinese , Ming is 明, the left 日 means sun, the right 月 means moon, so literally 明 (Ming) means "shining"/"bright".

82A: Goodman's instrument: abbr.: CLAR (Clarinet)

85A: Set of values: ETHOS

89A: 4.0 is a great one: GPA.

91A: Phony alibis, e.g.: LIES. I like this clue too.

100A: Skye cap: TAM. Skye is an island in Scotland. Good clue.

103A: Fox News chief Roger: AILES. Here is a picture. I know him, but don't know how to spell his name.

111A: 1969 Hitchcock film: TOPAZ. Did you see this movie? What's it about?

112D: City E of Le Havre: ROUEN. No idea. It's to the west of Paris. Joan of Arc was burned here.

113A: They often hang around a kitchen: SAUCEPANS

118A: Last Oldmobile model: ALERO. Discontinued in 2004.

119A: Memo starter: INRE

120A: "No harm done": I'M OK

121A: Slippery arenas: RINKS

123A: Global septet: SEAS. Nice clue.

124A: Letters on a Manhattan letters: NY NY


1D: Memorable Cosell interviewee: ALI

2D: Web or min follower: CAM

3D: Soften, as lighting: DIM

4D: Payment expectors: CREDITORS

5D: Paean penners: ODISTS

6D: Sucker bet: TRAP

7D: Bag or board preceder: TOTE

8D: Met wear: OPERA HATS. Do people really wear OPERA HAT when they go to the Met?

9D: Placid: SERENE

10D: Bird's less showy mate: PEAHEN. The showy peacock and the plain PEAHEN.

11D: Intro to pi?: OCTO. Octopi, the plural of octpus. Tricky clue.

12D: Intro to art?: THOU. THOU art.

13D: Your house, e.g.: ASSET. Good clue.

14D: "Won't Get Fooled Again" group: THE WHO. Here is the clip.

15D: The quicker picker-upper: TAXI

16D: Currier's partner: IVES

20D: Gershwin's "__ Eat Cake": LET 'EM. Unknown to me. It's opened in 1933. I only know Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat the cake".

23D: One of Fred's tenants: DESI (Arnaz). From "I Love Lucy".

29D: George of the future: JETSON. No idea. Whom does George refer to here?

30D: Occasionally: ONCE IN A WHILE

34D: Matador: TORERO

35D: Bout stopper, briefly: TKO

36D: Slippery __: AS EEL. Do you know EELS are caught in pots?

37D: King or queen: CARD. Another great clue.

39D: "Let's go, sleepyheads": RISE AND SHINE

40D: Of __ (so to speak): A SORT

41D: Run out, as a policy: LAPSE

45D: Headset piece: EARPHONE

50D: Eatery with steamers: CLAM BAR. Is it New England eatery?

54D: Icelandic epic: EDDA. Literally "poetry". It inclueds the Poetic EDDA and the Prose EDDA.

56D: Uxmal residents: MAYAS. I don't know where Uxmal is. It's "an ancient ruined city in SE Mexico, in Yucatán: a center of later Mayan civilization". That pyramid looks very familiar.

59D: "You were __ a mile!": OUT BY

62D: Thief who breaks in: BURGLAR. What about those thief who does not break in?

66D: Pond plant: REED

67D: Sister in an Eastwood film: SARA

68D: Dennis of NBA fame: RODMAN. The guy with the weird hair.

69D: Fleet-related: NAVAL. Not "Ship-related"?

70D: 2006 spinach invader: E. COLI. How is diffent from salmonella?

74D: In conflict: AT ODDS

75D: "I'm not leaving till I've had __!": MY SAY

77D: Plasm preceder: ECTO. Sometimes it' clued as "Prefix for outer".

78D: New beginning: REGENESIS. I only knew GENESIS.

80D: In _ (spiraling downward): A TAILSPIN

84D: Emissions org: EPA

88D: Reloading need: AMMO

92D: "The Evangelist" of the Bible: ST. MARK

94D: Chefs' toppers: TOQUES

95D: Stickum appliers: GLUERS

96D: Hersey's bell town: ADANO. Here is the book cover of "A Bell for ADANO".

97D: Like Mr. Diesel: abbr.: GER. I don't understand this clue. Is Mr. Diesel a German? Who is he? (Note: It's Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of Diesel Engine.)

98D: Gets down on the floor?: DANCES

99D: Tick's cousin: MITE

101D: Wood-shaping tools: ADZES. ADZE can also be spelled as ADZ.

104D: Hollywood honcho: STAR

105D: City N of Stockton, Calif: LODI. Oh, it's indeed to the north of Stockton.

106D: Brush __ (study): UPON

107D: Get a grip: GRAB

108D: Play by yourself: SOLO. Verb.

109D: Unit of glass: PANE

114D: Humorist Sedaris: AMY. David Sedaris' sister. I love "Me Talk Pretty One Day".

115D: Prefix for profit: NON

116D: Blue puzzle piece, often: SKY. Jigsaw puzzle.

Answer grid.