Have we never seen this theme before? Probably not in these exact terms. I like the idea: A phrase with the name of an element, whose periodic table abbreviation shows up to start the second word of the phrase. And you get the revealer of CHEMICALSYMBOLS across the middle.
Here's the age old question: would the theme be better if those darned circles weren't there? I guess, even with the revealer, some wouldn't get the extra layer. But it would be that much more elegant, in my opinion. I hate being struck over the head, slapped across the cheek (dope slapped?).
That all being said (a bit like a splash of cold water in the face, no?), of the four theme answers, only CARBONCOPY really rings true to my ears. I really had to struggle to Google COPPERCUPS. Only by adding "flower" did anything come up. SILVERAGE is a thing, just not a widely used phrase. And IRONFENCE is certainly a thing, but an ad hoc adjective-noun phrase, saved somewhat by the silly clue ("What hath the gardener wrought?").
Now, I can see that it might be extremely challenging to come up with phrases that fit the pattern and are well known. I tried briefly and came up with stupid stuff primarily (gold aura? neon necklace? oxygen Oprah?). Still, I don't create or edit the puzzles, do I? I just comment. Much easier from this side.
Otherwise, the grid was reasonable. 1A: Android purchases (APPS) gets a C-. The first answer I put in confidently was nFl. I was wrong, of course. The first answer I put in confidently and correctly was 14A: Lady of the Haus (FRAU). I like BIGBUCKS, and it's an odd bit of trivia for J.K. ROWLING. I didn't know that the list of runners-up for Time's Person of the Year was made public.
We need more names like EVONNE Goolagong in this world.
Criticism sure is easier than craftsmanship, eh? Still, I second your "meh"spleasure with the theme entries. Especially COPPERCUPS. What the?
You know, I wouldn't say no to Forty ACRES and a mule. If they still offered that for military service, I might have thought about signing up. Of course, if the service involved something as truly horrific as the Civil War, I might have wanted 400 acres, several mules, a horse, ten pigs, a smattering of hens, and a couple of dairy cows. How 'bout it U.S.Military? Will you make me that offer?
I think that was an offer made to freed slaves which was then revoked. Pretty typical of the U.S. Govt.Delete
Ahh... ok. I should brush up on Reconstruction. Wasn't Cece just saying that she had a section on that recently? She should have mentioned this!Delete
Also, I probably wouldn't take the offer if it required a life of slavery up to the point the offer was made.Delete
The circles weren't necessarily needed, but I didn't mind them. I suppose they kept me under 10 minutes. Always nice to be reminded of Buddy EBSEN. I never heard the term PIANET, though; that is nice trivia, IMO. ESCORT could have been clued a bit more racily. SNEE makes another appearance. OK puzzle.