Once Around the Track – New York Times

Our constructor today has deconstructed a common expression that refers to the apocalypse and harkens back to the days when people used words like harken in ordinary conversations. The expression is revealed at 38A and 39A, and hinted at in clues at 18A, 24A, 51A and 61A.

Those four theme entries were pretty challenging (and all debuts in the Times grid), as clued, although in retrospect they’re extremely well balanced and call to mind the old game Trivial Pursuit and its categories.

At 18A, we have a clue from arts and literature: “Characters in a play, formally.” The answer is Latin, DRAMATIS PERSONAE.

At 24A, we have a clue from, I’m going to say, entertainment — those who oppose this, look up the guy and his family. One of the sons of the current SULTAN OF BRUNEI is referred to as “the Instagram prince” and has about a million followers on that platform (in comparison, Jojo the corgi has more than 80,000. Who predicted that we would measure man’s and dog’s status like this?).

At 51A, you get my personal blind spot always, sports (with a little basic history): President Lincoln was from Illinois, of course, log cabin and all that. The University of Illinois’s football team is the FIGHTING ILLINI.

And, at 61A, we have a straight-up historical event, from the Yom Kippur War, which was 45 years ago this month, folks, in case you were missing your daily old age reminder, or maybe a reminder that we have survived some crazy times. There’s a number of military events in this region, as you know, but the entry here is the BATTLE OF THE SINAI.

By now, you may have realized that these entries have something in common that has absolutely nothing to do with their meaning. This trait might have made it harder to fill each one in using their crossing entries, or it might have occurred to you somewhere in the solve how unusual their shared trait is, actually, fairly unknown in the English language, which is why Mr. Deodene had to venture out in the world for his theme entries.

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