Today's Monday puzzle (answers) is an NYT debut for Gary Disch and it's all about NECKING. As the note points out, four theme clues hide articles of neckwear within the full answers. That additional note is what I've recently been calling a metaclue. We'll see if that one catches on.
The clue for 58 Across is an example of the NYT style guide oddity I mentioned earlier. Most people would refer to TLC without the periods. The Times insists otherwise.
I wondered about "many conundrums have them" as a clue for PUNS. Aren't conundrums just puzzling problems of any sort? What have they to do with word play, per se? (Gratuitous Latin but I liked the rhyme so I'm leaving it in!) It turns out that Mr. Disch and Mr. Shortz have this exactly right. According to the American Heritage Dictionary definition #1, a conundrum is "a riddle in which a fanciful question is answered by a pun." I've been using this word incorrectly for years.
INPEN, meaning "permanently," is one of those clues that I imagine may reflect the influence of computers in crossword construction. Let me explain. It's not a real word, of course, and back in August 2006, Trip Payne used it to get out of a jam in a Saturday puzzle. All of a sudden it's a legitimate answer and, thanks to computer databases, it's now available for fill software to use. Sure enough, we're up to five occurrences now.
Similarly, yesterday's Sunday puzzle with the intentional misspellings makes me wonder if millenium (sic) might start showing up in future puzzles since it's been "legitimized" in an NYT crossword now, or at least some dumb computer might think so. We'll have to wait and see.