Tip 1: Always keep the title of the Sunday puzzle rolling around in your mind until you’ve grokked (gotten) the theme.
Basic tip: The “theme” is the particular word play that is the core of the puzzle. When there aren’t other indicators (circles inside the grid; asterisks; etc.), the longest answers are related to the word play. It’s highly unusual to be able to figure these out immediately, to be able to get the answer right off the bat. Usually you need a lot of the clues that cross the long clues (often just called “crosses) before the tricky word play comes into focus. In really cool puzzles, you get a real neat aha! sensation when you figure out what’s going on.
Possible strategy: Most puzzlers work a corner at a time. Across Lite lends itself to do doing all the acrosses and then all the downs. I do this once without even seriously trying the long answers. Once I’ve gone all the way through the acrosses and downs, I take a look at each other long clues. Do I get the idea? Or can I see what one or two of the words in the phrase would work?
This may not get you anywhere at first. Now go to the area that has the most letters you’re pretty sure of and start seeing if you can build out from there. I also will see how far I can go along one of the long answers that I feel I can almost get, doing all the answers that cross it.
IMHO, though, you gotta struggle to get some of the long ones, because once you get one, you’ll see the idea and it will help you get the others and the rest of the puzzle.
Today’s theme hint: Between the title and a couple of clues, the word play in the long answers must be some kind of doubling. All the long acrosses are some play on redundancy. But this word play is a little different. Strictly speaking, you don’t absolutely need the “?” at the end, because the answers are commonly known things that are not altered by more word play.
5 specific hints:
67. Across – Roman Calendar Day: It’s the one that Caesar was supposed to watch out for!
66-Across – Perfume sampling spot: No, it’s not every annoying bunch of counters when you first walk into a department store. It isn’t part of the store at all, but part of the client.
81-Down – Hidden: As in drugs.
79-Down – Nabisco treats sold only seasonally: You’d think they’d sell ‘em in a season when they wouldn’t melt. These particular edibles are what gives meaning to life for many of us! Think s’mores. These are really made of the same ingredients!
36-Down – Amendment guaranteeing a speedy trial: Ok, gotta be one of the first ten, probably going to end in the letters most of the first ten end in. Only a couple a few five letter possibilities.