Here’s a reminder to join me and Harris Paseltiner of the band Darlingside on Instagram Live later today at noon Eastern time while he takes on today’s crossword! It should be a fun, free-flowing conversation. Darlingside’s Instagram username is @darlingside, although if you can stream it on your computer, their page is here. (I’m still new to Instagram.)

Today’s tricky theme features some longer-than-expected theme answers. Each one is based on a phrase that contains a single-letter initial, except that initial has been expanded out to a longer word to make bizarre phrases. The answer is clued normally but you get a hint that explains the expansion in the clues:

  • 24A: [*U.S. president who signed the Marshall Plan (direction)] is HARRY S. TRUMAN, expanded into HARRY SOUTH TRUMAN. The single letter S stands for South on a compass.
  • 27A: [*Music festival swag (test answer)] is T-SHIRTS, expanded into TRUE SHIRTS because T stands for True on a true/false test.
  • 38A: [*Like “Argo” or “Fargo” (gearshift option)] is RATED R, expanded into RATED REVERSE because R stands for Reverse in a car’s automatic transmission.
  • 49A: [*Pizza chain that once featured animatronic shows (drug)] is CHUCK E. CHEESE, expanded into CHUCK ECSTASY CHEESE because E stands for the drug Ecstasy.
  • 75A: [*Some steak orders (ideal gas law variable)] is T-BONES, expanded into TEMPERATURE BONES because T stands for Temperature in the ideal gas law equation PV = nRT.
  • 96A: [*Major antioxidant in orange juice (scale)] is VITAMIN C, expanded into VITAMIN CELSIUS because C stands for Celsius in the temperature scale. Note that I couldn’t use the word “temperature” in the clue because of 75A.
  • 114A: [*Time to attack (element)] is H-HOUR, expanded into HYDROGEN HOUR because H stands for Hydrogen on the periodic table.

There’s also a note at the top of the puzzle that says, “This puzzle’s ‘expansion pack’ spells out an apt seven-letter word.” Take the single-letter initials as indicated by the original phrases (S for SOUTH, T for TRUE, etc.) and you spell out STRETCH, which is what I did to each theme answer.

Some other answers I left out include ULYSSES SOUTH GRANT (inapt because he fought for the North, of course), BOOKER TRUE WASHINGTON, and the possibly blasphemous JESUS HYDROGEN CHRIST. I’ve always been amused that Chuck E. Cheese’s middle name is said to be Entertainment, so his full name is Charles Entertainment Cheese.

Hope to “see” many of you on Instagram Live later today! If possible I’ll see if I can post a link to the chat later on.

What did you think?