Who knew Lithium appeared so early in the Periodic Table? Not this guy. I'm sure my brother the chemist (not the drugstore kind) will be dismayed by my ignorance, but Lithium just seems so much more serious to me than Hydrogen or Helium. And yes, I know that's an absurd rationalization, but there it is.
My problems started early today when I got GARNET (January birthstone) and OILEDUP (Lubricated) and then noticed the NE at 10D, which I interpreted it as "North East." Since it appeared in the northeast corner of the grid, I thought I had immediately figured out the theme, so I quickly entered "compasspointS" into 34A. When I saw another two-letter answer at 22A, I stubbornly entered "ne" there, too, thinking - well, ok, they are only using the two-letter compass points, so they can't really differentiate between NNE and ENE... another absurd rationalization.
Eventually, I found true north, as it were, but not before my opinion of the puzzle had gone south. What's the opposite of STEM education? Because that's more of the kind of student I am. Humanities? Is that what it is? Anyway, I like science. I'm glad it exists, and I think it's cool that there are people on earth who can figure out exactly how to launch a spaceship so that it will reach a certain point in space at a certain time in the future. I like that people can figure out how to make things like the interwebz, and I like medical breakthroughs, but if the earth had only been populated with people like me, we'd still be working on fire.
So anyway, all this to say I don't know my ATOMICNUMBERS. Neither did I watch a single episode of "Friends," so I finished with something like GEsLER at 1A. I also didn't know the "Southwest acquisition of 2011," and guessed AIRiRAN (absurdly) without fully considering 38A: Dig (TAUNT).
I hope all you science nerds enjoyed it. Me, I'm looking forward to tomorrow. :)