Lots of people adore, say, Woody Allen (me too) but if you ask them if they liked his latest film, they say not so much. If you keep going back through the one before that and the one before that, none of them were great either, but they still like the director. I feel that way about constructor Alan Arbesfeld. I know I like him but when I read my posts on his last few puzzles, I noticed that I whined about them. Not this time. Extra Play, the Sunday August 31 puzzle (answers) seemed to just match my sense of humor or my mood for the day because I found it a good challenge but good fun too.
The theme phrases all come up two letters short (with the score tied, apparently) before adding some OverTime to match the clues. My favorite is "teacher's pet" which becomes SCHOOL MARMOT. "Part of a Beckett play" is nearly as good: AN ACT OF GODOT. By the way, if you're keeping tabs on that game, it's way into overtime. Vladimir and Estragon are still waiting.
As you see in the photo, TOUCANS do indeed have substantial bills. I assumed the clue referred to my old friend Ian whose bar tab might have grown large enough to be noticed by the New York Times.
Consider this clue: "Cable channel whose first showing was Gone With the Wind." This might be unfair to his predecessors, but I consider it a fine example of a Will Shortz clue. Perhaps Mr. Arbesfeld came up with it and it wasn't altered in the editing process, but it's the kind of small puzzle I associate with the modern NYT style. On its face, it's ludicrous but with a little thought it's quite gettable. GWTW is a generically Southern classic but it is particularly associated with Atlanta, home of, well, Ted Turner among others, so it has to be one of his stations, presumably one that shows movies. TNT. QED.