Relative difficulty: Pretty tough, maybe like a Friday almost
THEME: Letters of "Supercalifragilisticexpiolodocious" are Crushworded into the central 13
Word of the Day: LUNA
The Luna programme (from the Russian word Луна "Luna" meaning "Moon"), occasionally called Lunik or Lunnik by western media, was a series of robotic spacecraft missions sent to the Moon by the Soviet Union between 1959 and 1976. Fifteen were successful, each designed as either an orbiter or lander, and accomplished many firsts in space exploration. They also performed many experiments, studying the Moon's chemical composition, gravity, temperature, and radiation. Twenty-four spacecraft were formally given the Luna designation, although more were launched. Those that failed to reach orbit were not publicly acknowledged at the time, and not assigned a Luna number. Those that failed in low Earth orbit were usually given Cosmos designations. The estimated cost of the Luna programme was about $4.5 billion.
• • •Tough! Almost 13 minutes. Didn't get at all what was happening for a long time, but then it became clear that I had everything around the edges of the grid but nothing at all in the middle. That's a little on the weird side. Got MARY POPPINS (62A: Musical featuring 39-Across) but thought 39-A then had to be CHIM CHIMINY, CHEREE etc. etc., you know the one. But it was that other song, parsed as in the grid: SU-PER-CAL-I-FRAG-I-LIS-TIC-EX-PI-AL-I-DO-CIOUS. Don't make me type the 13 downs! I won't do it.
Lots of maddening (good maddening) moments here, knowing IMF had to be right for (Global capital inst.) and NORAS for (Comedian Dunn and others) but neither making sense there. Wasn't expecting a Crushword (who ever is, really? -- it's the underhand serve of crossword themes) so it was effective in perplexing me.
So yeah, I thought this was pretty fun. The clues were tough and it took me long enough to grok the theme idea that I felt slow about it afterwards. That's OK once it a while, infuriating but OK, to get bested a little on a Thursday. Well-played, constructor.
Upper-left and lower-right of the grid were impressively filled. I had H????VI in the lower-right and thought, "Well, if that entry's clue doesn't reference an English king, I'm screwed." But it did. THE TUXE(DO) is also a nice entry.
I'll go ahead and give this an A-, which makes it tops of the week so far. Let's see if Friday or Saturday can unseat it.
Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent of CrossWorld for two more days