Carly Schuna clearly understood the assignment. Facts. This puzzle definitely hits different. I'm totally vibing on it! I went looking and could hardly find anything basic. No cap!
OK, that's probably enough of that. I DOUBT you were fooled into thinking I was a hip Gen Zer, but seriously, so much dank material. The three long Acrosses are all so strong: HELLTOTHENO ("As frickin' if!"); THISISSUCHAMOOD ("I can relate," in Gen Z slang); and IMEANREALLY ("Surely you know this is ludicrous").
And really, everywhere you look you can find something to love. CHICKLIT ("Waiting to Exhale" or "Bridget Jones's Diary," dismissively), BITEME (Sassy retort), BROUHAHA (It's a big thing), BRAWN (Strength), SMORE (The first recipe for one was published in "Tramping and Trailing With the Girl Scouts" (1927)), PASTABAR (Dining option where bow ties might be expected). It's all so good!
I kind of wanted "pep pills" for "Crash protection?" but AUTOSAVE is also good. And how long did I try to make MAuvE work for "Lipstick choice"? Too long! And hands up if you tried doCTOR before RECTOR (Service provider?).
As this is only Carly's second offering in the NYT, I can't really say whether or not there was much of a glow up period, but one thing I can say is "Slay!" This puzzle slaps!