Loved this visual theme by Joe Krozel, where the black boxes are in the shape of a PINATA and there is a lone, uncrossed clue in the center: CANDY.
I would have done my best time yet for a Thursday except for about sixteen connected boxes in the center left, which took up well over five minutes.
Where some bills originate, for short: *SEN? *CON? ATM is the answer. Devilish.
"Org with millions of members HQ'd in Fairfax, VA:" *CIA? *NSA? No, NRA.
"Historical ______." As I have said before, I hate these kinds of too-vague clues. There's just no a-ha moment, as there is in the ATM wordplay. This is just two words that sometimes go together. Historical *DATA? Historical *FACT? No, Historical SITE. Yes, okay, whatever.
"Connector of English stories" had me thinking of writers and I couldn't get out of that mindset. It's LIFT, and stories are floors of a building. Arg.
"No Triple Crown winner ever" had me dithering. *MALE? *SIRE? No, of course it's MARE --- all the winners are male. It's not a rule, but it's just how it worked out.
"Well-planed" did not get me to EVEN.
So much for tricky and overly vague clues. Now on to the stuff I didn't know!
Hale BOGGS was Louisiana Democrat, House majority leader, and member of the Warren Commission. He died in a plane accident in Alaska, presumably before he could be found guilty on charges of corruption and bribery.
Naphthalene is distilled from TAR, more specifically naphtha, and is used in making mothballs.
I didn't know that Melania Trump was NEE Knauss. More specifically, her Slovenian birth name is Melanija Knavs, Germanicized to Melania Knauss.
For Lao-TSE I initially tried *TZU, a perfectly valid variant of what is properly Laozi. I'm not a professional Sinologist, but let's keep it Pinyin, people.
San ANGELO, Texas, is notable for its nicknames: Land of Sand and Jello, Pearl of the Conchos, and Oasis of West Texas
Why is "cross-country route, informally" ITEN and not *ITIN for itinerary??
- Update: Because it's I-TEN, the road, dummy.
LELAND Stanford founded the university with his wife, Jane, and, much like Trump, was acclaimed for his racist rants against Chinese immigrants.
"Brooks Robinson was one:" ORIOLE. Nicknames: the Human Vacuum Cleaner and Mr. Hoover.
"New Hampshire's Saint ANSELM College" is a Catholic liberal arts university that is ranked #8 in the nation for campus food.
"Agreement:" I had DETENTE for too long. It's ENTENTE.
Whew. Now that's a slog, and yet, I practically whizzed through it until I was hit by that center west wall. Well, that's the breaks. Ha! Breaks! PINATA!