Author: Emily Carroll
Time Allotment: 20 minutes
Time Left: 9 minutes (+225)
Errors: 0 (+150)
Correct Words: 74 (+740, out of 74)
Final Score: 1115
Loved this puzzle. It felt like a well-leveled Wednesday (my dad did call me yesterday to say the Tuesday was way too hard for a Tuesday ... and also to tell me my education failed me for not teaching me what the AFL-CIO is), but this felt very like a very reasonable Wednesday.
This one did take a bit longer to find a foothold. I began going through the acrosses but it took a while to get a few next to each other. Things clicked a bit at HOUR and INRE and then MURAL and PRENUP going down. I eventually mad my way to the middle left with POD, TRAP, ARBORS, and got 'GOLDEN ARCHES' which then gave me the theme answer of FLIPPED THE BIRD. I had never seen that theme before and none of the phrases felt forced, so A+ to Emily Carroll.
There was some really nice fill - LOW SNAP, URCHIN, ERROR FREE. My only complaint was the cluing for ICE T - given how contentious the 'first appearance of a PA sticker' debate is (I believe he IS the first for rap albums), I wish the cluing just avoided the topic altogether (so many great other clue choices for @FINALLLEVEL)