Another Saturday puzzle like this one and I just might retire my Pentel! I fell asleep working it last night, woke up four hours later and went to bed. This morning it required multiple cups of coffee, Google, and outside help.
This may well be the first time I said that I detested a puzzle. Breaking news...a comment just came in on yesterday's blog from Norman, and I see that I'm not alone in my frustration.
Beginning with clues and/or answers that I liked...
1A: Modesty preserver, in some films (bubble bath).
15A: Old form of Italian musical drama (operaseria). I struggled to get the last half of it, but it makes perfect sense.
11A: "__ wondrous pitiful": "Othello" ('twas). 'Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful. She lov'd me for the dangers I had pass'd, And I lov'd her that she did pity them... You can read more here.
19A: Pixar's first feature-length film (Toy Story). I remember it well...we had our family pictures taken (our very first), then went to see Toy Story while the photographer developed the proofs. It also featured a short...something I hadn't seen in many years...about an old man playing chess with himself in the park.
23A: You may be lost in the middle of it (nowhere). The best clue in the puzzle.
27A: It has a smaller degree of loft than a mashie (four iron). A good guess, once I had most of iron in place. But what the hell's a mashie?
28A: Cupule's contents (acorn). Never heard of cupule, but the answer soon became obvious.
35A: Where to pick up dates? (palms). Another good one.
3D: Bunch (bevy). A word I enjoy using. A bevy of beauties descending the stairs. Many years ago, I said that watching four of my co-workers coming down the staircase...followed immediately by the CFO who never showed a sense of humor. He did smile, though, and it sort of broke the ice. He didn't seem as grumpy after that.
7D: Draft picks (beers).
10D: Fliers, e.g. (handouts). I like it because that was my first guess, although I erased it later...don't remember why.
12D: End-of-year festival (wintertide)...stupidly had wintertime, which made it difficult to get the cross at 36A: Fall production (cider).
13D: "Common Nonsense" author, 2002 (Andy Rooney). I like having both first and last names in the answer. For those who didn't know this, at least it was Googleable.
24D: Tries something (has a go at it). I always love multiword answers...and this has five! That may be a record. My first answer was has a gander.
26D: One running for work? (bootlegger).
36D: Retinue (cortege). Both good words.
Very briefly, these are the answers I liked not so very well (what we had to say at the table if we didn't like a particular food that was served).
32A: Spanish city that gave sherry its name (Xeres). Google thought it was Jerez. According to this article, its name changed several times.
WTFs include 37A: Rich mine or other source of great wealth (golconda), 42A: Mountain sheep (argali), 48A: Unexpected turn of events, as in a literary work (peripeteia), 25D: Mob rule (ochlocracy) and 32D: Scolding wife: Var. (xantippe).
The other long answers that really gave you a leg up if you were lucky enough to get them...17A: Public appearance preparers (advancemen), 51A: See-through sheets (plate glass), 53A: Grant's position in presidential history (eighteenth) and 14D: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concern (stolen cars).
I just noticed a few military clue/answer pairings...4D: Uniform armband (brassard), 8D: Private group (army) and 46D: Military band (sash)...some of which didn't come to me as easily as I'd have liked.
I'm calling it good for today. Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.