My time: 12:59.
I had a great time figuring out this exceedingly clever theme by Trenton Charlson. The theme is BATTLESHIP, "with the game's other pieces hinted at by the circled letters." But the other pieces are where the real trickery comes in. For "grinder," I put *SUB SANDWICH and went on my merry way. But it isn't that simple.
Down in the SE corner there's "success in the game 60 Across" which is HIT. I decided, noticing also the preponderance of answers with X, that this meant that each answer had at least one X in it. But it isn't even that simple.
As more answers came, it was clear that the Schwarzenegger sequel didn't have nearly enough letters. This meant that Conan the Destroyer was represented as CONAN THE XX. Because in the game Battleship, a destroyer is two units long, and it's been "hit" in the puzzle. (I think "sunk" would have been a better hint because "hit" doesn't mean that every single unit of a ship has been hit, but there it is.)
So for submarine it's actually XXX SANDWICH, for carrier ("early form of airmail?") it's XXXXX PIGEON (because carriers are five units long in the game), and PT XXX refers to a PT Cruiser. Got it? I love a puzzle with this many layers of trickery.
The Duchess of ALBA, specifically the thirteenth duchess, is the Goya subject. He painted her several times: in white (The White Duchess), in black (The Black Duchess, dressed in the style of a maja), and as a girl playing with her maid (The Duchess of Alba and "La Beata").
I don't think I knew that the LBJ Ranch was known as "The Texas White House."
I've heard Mary's mother's name many times, but I needed crossfill to remind me that it's ANNE. Her name is found only in Apocrypha, not in the canonical Bible.
"Org. whose symbol is an eagle atop a key" is the NSA. The linked article helpfully explains that this symbol carries no meaning whatsoever.
Pac-12 team the Utah UTES appeared August 12.
"Red giant in the constellation Cetus" is MIRA. Cetus is known as "the whale," as in cetacean. In Greek mythology, Perseus killed Cetus as he was about the eat the sacrifice Andromeda. The name "mira" means wonderful or astonishing, as in miracle.
Bella ABZUG was a leader of the women's movement. She helped found the National Women's Political Caucus with Gloria Steinem. She is famous for saying "This woman's place is in the House --- the House of Representatives" and served three terms in Congress.
"Neighbor of India and China in Risk" is SIAM. Really? Is there a 4:30 auto-gyro aeromail to the Prussian Consulate there?
We've had Lena Olin, but not LENA Headey, who apparently is in "Game of Thrones," which I have not seen.
Clever clues: "Butters up?' is BASTES. "A penny is a small one" is ANTE. "Giving heat?" is ARMING. "Winter coat" is ICE.
Well, INTEL next time.
My time: 6:43 . -- Benjamin Kramer serves us up an ace of a puzzle with this VOLLEYBALL-loving grid. The themed answers LIP SERVICE, th...
My time: 11:43 . -- Today we are treated to a themeless by Sam Ezersky. It's nothing jaw-dropping, but it's a solid Saturday. ...
My time: 17:47 , just one minute too slow for the record! -- Ross Trudeau collected a series of cryptids from divers geographical areas ...