My time: 6:28, pretty good!
Today's puzzle, by Sande Milton and Jeff Chen, has a big smiley face in the grid just like this Monday's, but it has nothing to do with any happy or smiley wordplay. No, this puzzle is about SCRABBLE. There are four PLAYERS represented in the grid, each themed word being behind a triple row of black squares to represent the rack, facing each other in a square. The other answers are JUMBLED, ARRANGE, and LETTERS. These four answers are clued as jumbled letters of their answers, i.e. "rack #1: AELPRSY" for PLAYERS.
But that's not all! A sixth themed answer is MIXED BAG, representing three other anagrammed answers in the middle of the squared off PLAYERS: these are ISLET, STILE, and TILES.
Very clever! So here's to you, Sande and Jeff, for toasting Alfred Butts and his Lexico game.
In other fill:
An "approach shot in golf" is a CHIP shot. This is a ball played from close to the green, popping the ball up and over some small barrier such as the last bit of rough, so you can get close enough to putt.
Evo MORALES has been the president of Bolivia since 2006. An indigenous Aymara, he was a coca grower and activist before becoming a politician.
The BEEB, of course, is the BBC, but I didn't remember at first that Sky UK is another British TV channel.
For "yawners, in sports" I initially put *ROUTS but it's... ROMPS? Merriam-Webster defines it as "an easy, winning pace" synonymous with runaway, so I guess so?
The Spanish city of AVILA, capital of the province of the same name, is noted for its 700-900 year old walls, the most complete fortifications in all of Spain.
In other foreign city news, I couldn't remember offhand the name of BASRA. Its in the southeastern part of the country, on the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates, about 70 miles north of the Persian Gulf.
"Irish Rose's love" is somewhat opaque, but I'd read somewhere that "Abie's Irish Rose" is a play by Anne Nichols about the wedding of an Irish Catholic woman, Rosemary Murphy, who marries a Jewish man, ABIE Levy, over the objections of their families. There were two film versions made.
"The Runnin' Rebels" of the NCAA is UNLV, whose sports teams bear that tedious name.
Did you know U.S. ROUTE 50 goes from California to Maryland? Me neither. It's about 3000 miles long, with some stretches called "The Loneliest Road in America."
The Miracle Mets appeared in a puzzle on February 21, but today they want one of the players. It's Tommie AGEE, an outfielder who made two of the greatest catches in World Series history, and both were in game three of the 1969 World Series.
It's well known that all the great detergents have monosyllabic names. Bold. All. Cheer. Biz. Gain. Fab. Proctor & Gamble's entry is ERA --- two syllables! They dare to break the mold.
Scotland's Firth of TAY appeared on May 8, but today we learn that the River TAY is Scotland's longest river. It's 117 miles.
"Big name in nail polish" is ESSIE. Never heard of it!
I didn't know that there was a path in the Andes called the INCA Trail, but it makes sense.
"1953 Leslie Caron title role" is LILI. Lili Daurier is an orphaned young woman who joins a puppet act and starts a relationship with the antisocial puppetmaster. Caron also played Gigi in Gigi.
SAS, when it comes to airlines, stands for Scandinavian Air Systems, headquartered in Stockholm.
TEENA Marie appeared, along with the clue that she sang the 1985 hit "Lovergirl," on April 30.
Clever clues: "Key" is ISLET. "It has a head and hops" is ALE. "Links things" is TEES. "Car nut" is LUG.
I'm very surprised I did this so quickly, considering that long list of new concepts! I guess it's all that practice ENABLING me to make better guesses.
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