My time: 6:52.
Paul Coulter got his inspiration for this puzzle from both the stars and Greek myth. CASSIOPEIA was a vain queen of ETHIOPIA, who boasted that she was more beautiful than the sea nymphs, THE NEREIDS. For this, POSEIDON banished her to the sky (some say chained to a chair, as her daughter was chained and slated to be sacrificed to a sea monster), where we see her constellation today.
As if that weren't enough, the X's scattered throughout the puzzle depict the stars that make up her constellation.
"Presidential perk until 1977" is YACHT. I am stunned to learn that there was a Sea Force One, the U.S.S. Sequoia, in use from Hoover to Carter, who had it sold in 1977, the fiscally prudent fellow he was.
I'm a big "The Wire" fan, but how am I supposed to know the rank of the tertiary characters? Jay Landsman was a SGT. The real Jay Landsman was thin, and the inspiration for detective John Munch, a character from "Homicide: Life on the Street" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
Speaking of Munch, it's no surprise that the Edvard Munch Museum is in OSLO.
For "gives comfort" I put *SUCCORS but it's SOLACES, and that slowed me down. Likewise, I put *SCARF for "gobble down," and it's the much less common SNARF.
BRYCE Canyon is a National Park in Utah, home to the largest hoodoo collection in the world!
Prince George is Prince William's oldest SON. Who can keep track of all these royals?
I've never heard of writer ANN Beattie, who seems to have a mixed record.
Muckraker IDA Tarbell was exposed on September 21.
Long, thin mushroom ENOKI was last unearthed on July 18.
That's it for the new stuff. I might have had the record for today, but got help up at ANN Beattie crossed with *SCARF. For the theme, I rate this one TEN out of ten. And now, it's OVER.