My time: 11:30, pretty good.
Emily Carroll manages to cram four COMPACT CARS into one square each in this rebus puzzle. The first one I picked up on was R[OPE L]ADDER for "access to a treehouse, maybe," because I had most of ladder filled in. The punchline being in the middle of the puzzle helped me as well. I also figured that "move along" was unlikely to be a three-letter word; it's PR[OPEL].
I initially had put only *DUMMIES for "self-deprecatingly titled instructional book series," but it's [FOR D]UMMIES, crossed with AF[FORD]. Then there's "European nation since 1993," SOLOVA[KIA], crossed with S[KI A]REA. (Wikipedia says Slovakia's independence day is July 17, 1992, while a Google search gives you the answer January 1, 1993, so I don't know who's right there). Finally, there's PL[AUDI]TS for "praise," crossed with G[AUDI]EST.
Fun puzzle! There's even some good non-theme fill: DANCE AROUND, DIRT CHEAP, OPEN AND SHUT.
I couldn't remember DIDO, who was so ubiquitous fifteen or more years ago. She also sang "White Flag."
A golfer's goof is a SLICE, but that took me a bit to fill in because I didn't trust myself to know that term without a little crossfill. Also, although it usually refers to an error, "the slice can be played intentionally."
For "big loss, figuratively" I put *BLOW but it's BATH.
Did you know the OED ends in "zyzzyva?" Me neither, but that's a great clue.
For "Casey at the Bat autobiographer," neither DeWolf nor Hopper fit, so I quickly realized it was STENGEL.
I've watched maybe an episode and a half of "Glee." Apparently it's set in (a fictionalized version of) LIMA, OHIO. That's nice.
I'm getting used to the New York Times' "et ALII."
I'm so illiterate about geography, I could not have told you that the Adriatic is an ARM of the Mediterranean.
San Francisco's COIT Tower is new to me. Also known as the Lillian Coit Memorial Tower, it is located in Pioneer Park, made of unpainted concrete, and is a tribute to Coit, who left the city money to beautify it. I'm... not sure this was a good use of the funds?
DULLES airport was apparently designed by Eero Saarinen, who atypically finds himself on the clue side of the puzzle today.
The puzzle defines Carl ICAHN as "financial mogul," but he's actually an amoral sleazebag who profited off of insider trading and hostile takeovers. I looked into him on November 18, 2017, and afterwards too.
NFL player CAM Newton appeared on October 12, 2017, and I remembered him right off.
I more vaguely remembered TV exec Roone ARLEDGE, who was featured on March 6.
Clever clues: "Cellular carrier?" is RNA. "Piece of cake?" is TIER.
And that's all for today. Great puzzle, fun theme, fun clues, and I did very well time-wise. All by MYSELF! I'm IN AWE.
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