Today's time: 7:15, ugh.
Lynn Lempel beat me up with this puzzle that celebrates the HIT PARADE --- not musical hits, but synonymous ones in certain phrases: SHOT CLOCK (like in basketball), WAX BEAN (with the old timey "wax" meaning), SUN BELT ("snowbirds' destination"), and so on. I enjoyed seeing LUCY VAN PELT in the puzzle.
I messed up any chance of a decent time with *FENCE for "gate closer." It's LATCH, and it took me a good while to see that.
I've never heard of a Charlotte RUSSE. Charlottes are molded desserts, and a Charlotte Russe is made with ladyfingers, Bavarian cream, and fruit sauce. (It also seems to be a clothing retail company.)
Mel OTT is a baseball great ("honored in Cooperstown"). He played in the 1920s and '40s. His nickname was Master Melvin, which sounds like a minor supervillain. Wikipedia: "Ott's name frequently appears in crossword puzzles, on account of its letter combination and brevity." That's how I've heard of him!
"Liebestod" is the ARIA from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.
LAYETTE is not in my wheelhouse, though I've heard the term.
Even though I know perfectly well who MIRA Sorvino is, I put *MINA because I was flustered or something.
ILIE Nastase appears again, last seen by me on October 5.
I didn't find this puzzle very fun. A lot of straight definitions for clues ("bottle stopper" for CORK, "soft mineral" for TALC, etc). Not a lot of wordplay. Oh well. NEXT!
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