If you're a regular reader of Madness, you may have noticed that I didn't post last night. Mike and Elaine came in around 7:00, so we had a late dinner with them and sat around chatting. My plan was to solve last night...which I did...and then blog early this morning while everyone else slept. I was counting on Dooley's 6:00 bark to awaken me, but he slept in as well.
A very big thank you to Wendy, a regular reader and one of the Kauai guest bloggers, who emailed me this morning with an offer to pinch hit. If I had to get a turkey in the oven this morning, I'd have taken her up on it. This year we're doing a joint effort, hosted at a friend's, and I'm off turkey duty. I've made the pumpkin rolls and just need to do a couple of pies this morning. Piece of cake...pie...whatever.
Let me grab a cup of coffee and I'll get on with the puzzle, but here's a clue.
Mmm...that first sip is always the best.
If you did the puzzle online, you might have missed the X in the center, but if you printed it out (or actually had the New York Times...what a concept), you couldn't miss it. I knew it was a hint, but it took some time to see what it meant.
After a run through the across clues, I had only one answer in the top half...21A: Prefix with skeleton (endo). Not much of a toe-hold. Then came the giveaway at 32A: T.__ (Rex). Once I saw that X hanging there, I guessed what was up. The next clue 33A: Marks (out) (Xes) confirmed it. Without looking at the other clues, I put an X in the other two spots. At 17D: 44-Across character, with "the" (Lorax)...piggybacking on 44A: Children's doctor? (Seuss)...and 38D: Tree tissue (xylem).
From there, things just started flowing in this elegant puzzle. But the theme was far from over with that. Two 15-letter theme answers that were the icing on the cake (or the whipped cream on the pie), clued identically.
16A: [See diagram] (ADULT FILM RATING)
56a: [See diagram] (ROMAN NUMERAL TEN)
A related x answer appears at 59A: What x makes (product). I haven't heard that word used since I was in grade school. Do they still teach it that way?
There were several things I absolutely didn't know, but I was able to get them from crosses. That's what I love about crossword puzzles...when I see a letter or two, and the word jumps to the forefront of the brain. It's a beautiful thing.
19A: Son of David (Solomon). I should have known that.
23A: Author of "Winning Bridge Made Easy" (Goren). Ditto...I think that was in a fairly recent puzzle.
24A: Wisconsin senator Feingold (Russ). Don (a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison) would probably have known that, but he was busy elsewhere.
28A: "The Da Vinci Code" albino (Silas). I think that's been in here recently as well. I didn't even remember that there was an albino in it. As an aside, we had an albino parakeet when I was a kid...perfectly white, with beautiful little red eyes. I'll bet I said that in the post when this answer last appeared.
31A: Beast that bugles (wapiti). That's one of those answers that hung around in parts of my brain but refused to reveal itself.
34A: __ Press, classic Venetian printer that introduced italics (Aldine). That was tough, especially with its cross at 34D: B flat, enharmonically (A sharp). If you don't know music, that could have been A or E. I know a little, but I still guessed it wrong. Eldine sounded good, but the Applet wouldn't accept it.
45A: __ Lawrence Orchestra (British big band since the 1960s) (Syd). I tried Art, but it didn't get me very far. As it turns out, it was the answer for 10D: "All nature is but __": Pope (art).
35D: "Fidelio" protagonist (Leonora). When I had *E*N*RA, that was a good guess that panned out.
49D: __-nez (pince). Now that I see what they are, I think we've had that in the last few months. Here they are, worn by Theodore Roosevelt. They look painful.
54D: Adriatic port (Bari). The B was the last letter I entered in the grid. Since I didn't know pince, I was missing two letters from 53A: Thumb's end. When that answer finally hit me (silent B), I had both pince and Bari.
Very quickly, some of my favorites:
14A: Sluggishness (inertia). Just because.
61A: High point (apogee)...a beautiful word.
62A: Small harpsichord (spinet).
1D: Medium tempo (andante). Belle would be proud of me for getting that one straight off.
11D: Bright lights, at times (stimuli). Good word, good clue.
41D: Heir (legatee). I'm a fan of all words legal. A similar answer at 46D: Nonprofit groups, often (donee)...we like to be that very often.
42D: Who said "I believe in censorship. After all I made a fortune out of it" (Mae West).
A few clues that stumped me briefly. 6D: Crew member (sailor)...I wanted something to do with rowing, 45D: Private response? (salute)...I had aye aye.
28D: Skater Cohen (Sasha) was a gimme, but I needed crosses to get 15D: Sampras rival (Agassi). I know a few tennis names, but that just wouldn't come to mind.
The rest of the household is stirring, so I'll wrap this up. Here's the grid (bigger than usual, so you can see its symmetrical beauty)...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.
I hope you and yours have a very Happy Thanksgiving...and that you find many things for which to be grateful.