My time: 8:14.
This one was constructed by David Steinberg. I really didn't understand the theme. The puzzle has four unrelated phrases, clued as if they've been "expanded" by adding extra letters that form a new, unrelated word. "Beginning, expanded?" is STREET ART. That's start with tree put in it, I guess? Or maybe reet? "Forming a crust, expanded?" is CALIFORNIA KING. That's... caking with lifornia inserted, or maybe aliforni?? "Choose in advance, expanded?" is PRESIDENT-ELECT. That's preselect with ident jammed in there for some reason? And finally, "Inspiration for something, expanded?" is SOUTH PARK. That's spark with outh in it. What??
It took some internet searching to realize that the "expansions" are of abbreviations of words in the answer. So STREET ART is built from St. art, or beginning. CALIFORNIA KING is Ca. king, or forming a crust. I get it now! Pres. elect and S. park!
...Eh, not worth the trouble. I did appreciate some of the fill, like PONY KEG, APERITIFS, and EXONERATE.
For "bottoms" I put *BVDS but it's BUMS. For "drag show props" I put *WIGS but it's BOAS.
"_____ group" is a terrible clue for GIRL.
Are NOSES really "things counted at meetings"??
I wasn't quite sure about filling in LENOVO, though I certainly have heard of the brand. It's a Chinese company, originally founded in 1984 as Legend.
Who calls a Superman-like stance" a POWER POSE? No one. It's arms akimbo, maybe. Or Supermanspreading, that would be a good one. I mean, I'll concede that power posing is a real, albeit discredited concept.
I've heard of IGGY Azalea, but didn't know she had a song called "Fancy." I kind of like it!
Did you know there's a Disneyland in TOKYO? I won't be going.
Clever clues: "Like naughty privates?" is AWOL. "Head covering" is SCALP (not *SCARF).
This was an unpleasant solving experience for me. A weirdly challenging and baffling theme, backed by a few misleading or insufficient clues. There was almost no new material to learn here, just time-draining difficult theme answers. I know I need to grow A PAIR, but I'm going to give myself a PASS on this one.
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