Today's time: 28:38.
Ed Sessa's puzzle has phrases which begin with W, but the beginning is replaced with SQU, and clued appropriately. So you have "prodigality" (SQUANDERLUST), "Mr. Magoo biopic" (SQUINTER'S TALE), "prepares cube steak" (SQUARES THE BEEF), and so on. Very clever, and has the added bonus of speeding solving, once you ascertain what's going on. The only clunker is "cuckoo or dodo?" which is SQUIRRELY BIRD. Why are those birds squirrely?
Anyway, to show you where my head was, for the first clue, "Philbin's onetime morning co-host" I confidently put in... *PHILBIN. Brain had once again failed to turn on. It's GIFFORD of course.
I had a hard time remembering MASSE, "spinny pool shot."
I never knew TAMPA was known as "cigar city." Celebrated cigar maker Vicente Martinez Ybor opened the largest cigar factory in the world in Tampa (although he went on to found Ybor city).
I forgot that Emily Dickinson was born in AMHERST, Massachusetts. And apparently in one of the first brick houses in the city.
"How cool!" is OOH. Meh.
Here is Gay TALESE's famous piece on Sinatra, which I've read before.
Totally new to me department: soprano Renata SCOTTO. She became known for her contribution to the revival of the bel canto style, a term which seems to mean nothing in particular.
Also, civil rights activist LANI Guinier, who was the subject of "shrill, unsubstantiated attacks" from Republicans when Clinton nominated her for Assistant Attorney General.
Also, EDILE, more properly Aedile, is an ancient Roman rank. The aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings and order. Apparently, Julius Caesar started as one?
Love and Death on Long Island is a novella by Gilbert ADAIR. It was made into a movie starring Jason Priestly and John Hurt. It's about a curmudgeonly widower who hates modern culture but starts falling for a younger man. Adair is the translator of Georges Perec's lipogrammatic novel A Void, which makes him fiendishly clever in my book.
Never heard of the "Best Foreign Language Film of 2015," IDA. It is the first Polish film to win, and in 2016, the film was named as the 55th best film of the 21st century, from a poll of 177 film critics from around the world. Dang.
SPIT is a card game for two players. It's a fast-paced shedding game in which you discard cards of one higher or lower value than the last played card.
A DYNODE is a specialized electrode in a vacuum tube. This is one. It's all a bit above my head.
Clever clues: "Trouble maker" is HASBRO. "A part of Life?" is OAT (I thought it might be *DIE, meaning a part of the board game).
And that's all. Lots of great fill and vague clues, giving a real challenge. I'm now ready for the easy Monday. I've URNed it.
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