Today's time: 36:46.
I fight to the finish on these end-week puzzles, but it's getting discouraging to note these long times. Why aren't I getting better? Tom McCoy is the author of this almost too-difficult Sunday. The theme is another fairly meta one. If you count the ANSWER LENGTH (110 Across), the themed clues make sense.
So, for example, "this clue's 110 Across, timewise" is MIDNIGHT HOUR, and lo and behold, it has twelve squares. "This clue's 110 Across, as is relevant each November" has 18 squares, and it's VOTING AGE IN AMERICA. "This clue's 110 Across, at the Olympics" gave me trouble; once I had DIVE, I tried to put *DIVE HEIGHT (the Olympic diving board is ten meters above the water), but it's DIVER'S GOAL, as in a perfect ten score. Once the theme is apparent, it helps. For example, counting the 18 squares in "this clue's 110 Across, in chemistry" means it's obviously something to do with argon, and it's ARGON'S ATOMIC NUMBER.
Also, four answer squares are circled, and they spell out FOUR. Hint!
Reno, NV, is in WASHOE County. Now that I know that, what do I do?
The TATE Modern is a museum in London.
First Man ON MARS is a stupid-looking comedy-horror movie from 2016. The Last Days ON MARS is a 2013 thriller about killer microbes starring Liev Schreiber.
"Mork calling ORSON..." Man, I loved that show.
I guess the Phillies' division is the NLE, National League East? Zzzzzz.
Speaking of Philadelphia, "Temple athlete" is OWL. Temple is a doctoral university located in the Cecil B. Moore neighborhood of Philadelphia. Their mascot is Stella the great horned owl.
Speaking of universities, Oral Roberts University is located in TULSA. That's nice and all, but the Wikipedia article has the real story, such as Lindsay Roberts' taste for texting underage males on university-issued cell phones.
For "2017 US Open winner," I originally put *NARAL. Oops, ha ha! That's the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, the pro-choice abortion rights group. The tennis player is Rafael NADAL, the "king of clay" and winner of 16 grand slams and an Olympic medal.
Apparently Smaug's LAIR was known as the LONELY MOUNTAIN. I did not know that.
Speaking of nerd epics, I haven't seen The Force Awakens, so I forgot the name of the stormtrooper turned hero FINN. But I did know that Darth Vader's nickname was ANI. Ha ha! Ani.
ET ALIAE is a bit fastidious, even for the Times.
MCGILL is a university in Montreal. Look, I can't know everything about every university.
For "mountain ash" I fell for the possible double meaning and was thinking of volcano detritus. It's actually a tree, an ash that grows on a mountain: ROWAN.
The CESAR is the French equivalent of the Oscar. Interestingly, the Canadian Film Awards have no cutesy nickname.
I mentioned not having read the Lemony Snicket books here; I think asking for a minor character's name, Edgar POE, is a bit much.
Clever clues: "Return fee?" is RANSOM. "Rising concerns in modern times?" is SEAS. "Has in an old form?" is HATH. "One with a large bill at breakfast?" is TOUCAN SAM. "Ones stationed at home" got me with its military implication, but it's UMPS.
AWRY, that's all for now.
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