Last night's date with Don was spent taking down all of the Christmas decorations...including the tree, which I hadn't gotten to the weekend before. Definitely one of the upsides of an artificial tree...a friend of mine once left hers up (albeit without decorations) until March.
While Don was packing the tree into the box, I downloaded and solved the puzzle. And what an enjoyable puzzle it was! Those of us of a certain age had an advantage with the film, music and sports clues, such as:
15A: "Tom Jones" beat it for Best Picture of 1963 (Cleopatra). I was only 11, so I didn't get to see either of them...but working the downs revealed it would end in RA, making it a gimme at that point.
16A: Singer Bryson (Peabo). He's still around...and apparently just released a new CD in October...but my favorite was his 1984 hit, "If Ever You're in My Arms Again."
18A: Star Steeler Stautner (Ernie)...okay, so I got that one from crosses. I'm sure many of you knew that name.
44A: 1984 Cyndi Lauper hit (She Bop)...from "She's So Unusual." This site has a link to the lyrics...most of which are the title, repeated as the chorus. But some lines caused quite a stir. "They said I'd better stop, or I'll go blind...I can't stop messin' with the danger zone." I guess I was too busy with life in 1984 to care if the song was about masturbation or dancing.
4D: "Citizen __ (1992 autobiography) (Koch).
11D: Achievement by 30-Down that had been previously unattained (perfect ten), along with 30D: Big name at the 1976 Olympics (Nadia). I remember being glued to the television to watch her perform. I got 11D with only the first and last E in place.
24D: Col. Potter on "M*A*S*H," to pals (Sherm). We watched "It's a Wonderful Life" a few weeks ago, so I had Henry. Henry, of course, was Henry Blake, one of my favorite M*A*S*H characters. I've never forgiven them for killing him off when he was going home.
27D: Title sport in a 1975 James Caan film (Rollerball).
31D: 1987 world figure skating champion (Orser).
41D: 1994 U.S. Open winner (Agassi). It wasn't until I started doing crossword puzzles that I realized there was another U.S. Open...unrelated to golf.
Favorite clues include 10A: Food fight noise (splat), 24A: Basketmaker? (scorer)...the question mark meant it wasn't the obvious weaver, 32A: Christmas story bad guy (Herod)...when Grinch wouldn't fit, I went through all of the bad guys I could think of before I thought of the original one, 37A: Much unscripted fare (reality TV), 40A: Acquisition before becoming a resident (MD degree)...had no idea until I ended up with MD, then it was a no-brainer, 8D: Elementary school trio? (RRR), 14D: Web sites? (toes), 22D: Place of refinement (smelter), 23D: State second: Abbr. (Lt Gov), and 45D: Record holder (hi-fi)...that really belongs with the old-timey answers.
There was some extraordinary fill...words that seldom appear in a puzzle.
1A: Energize (kick-start). I was torn between that and jump-start. 1D confirmed it, though...Plymouth Reliant, for one (K-car).
17A: Cocky competitors might take them on (all comers). The phrase isn't one I'm familiar with...needed the crosses.
21A: Not do anything about (let slide). I had lets it be for too long.
33A: Record holder (registrar).
34A: Writer of a five-volume Henry James biography (Edel). Did anyone's life need that many words?
42A: Fits behind the wheel? (road rage). This is the best clue/answer in the puzzle...and a total gimme. There was a time in my life...
Others include 47A: House style (Cape Cod), 52A: Middle Eastern dish (pilaf), 53A: Recording session starter (first take), 55A: Stampless I.R.S. submission (e-file), 56A: Sultana-stuffed treat (raisin pie), 3D: Frames a collector might frame (cels), 10D: Small trunks (Speedos), 29D: "Laborare est __" ("to work is to pray") (orare), 38D: Acknowledgment on a slip (I goofed), and 39D: Sterile (aseptic).
I read several of the clues in the wrong context...some didn't even make sense when I had the answer.
5D: Having turned (spoiled)...I was thinking about turning something on a lathe. It became obvious after I filled it in.
35D: Leave in difficulty (strap). This one took forever...I finally get it.
43D: Sharp (acrid). I don't remember what I had there first...and can't see what I erased. It made that horizontal stack difficult to get...whatever it was.
49D: Hands are under one: Abbr. (Capt.).
Tomorrow I need to make a trip (weather permitting) to pick up a car that we'd let someone drive. It's been sitting since he wrecked it, and we just learned the whole ugly story. He got full coverage, paid one month's premium, wrecked the car and collected the insurance claim proceeds. Because the insurance company didn't total the car, they didn't ask for a title. Can you say insurance fraud?
So...today is my no-driving day. I'll stay home with my boys, watch the birds, look at the snow on the trees, solve the Sunday puzzle...maybe stay in my pajamas all day.
Here's the grid...
...and I'll see you tomorrow.