My time: 43:41, surely the longest time I've posted yet on this blog.
Mary Lou Guizzo and Jeff Chen teamed up to nearly defeat me, and I think I put the last four squares in with literally a minute to spare before the day ended. There were just so many tricks and hard clues that I gave up several times.
It's really extraordinarily clever. Maybe too clever. There is a RUDOLPH theme, with the answers GENE AUTRY, SHINY NOSE, and THE MOST FAMOUS / REINDEER OF ALL. There's also a sole solitary rebus in the NW corner. The word red is in one box, to form [RED]RUM crossed with SH[RED]S. That's because --- and this is where we separate the elk from the deer, theme-wise --- if you connect the circled boxes from A to Z and back again, there's a picture of a reindeer, and where his nose is, is the box with [RED] in it. Dang, that's above and beyond.
Not to mention the SANTA and NORTH POLE answers crammed in there.
So, I also had quite a bit of trouble with the main fill (like "pitch" being EIGHTY-SIX), but in the interests of brevity I'm going to just stick with the main difficulties. Otherwise this post will reach Moby-Dick lengths.
"West Indies native" is CARIB, because that island group is in the Caribbean. The West Indies is also called the Caribbean Basin.
The GILA River is a tributary of the Colorado.
ARBY'S was founded by the Raffel brothers, Forest and Leroy, in Boardman, Ohio, in 1964. I always assumed the name came from the initials of Roast Beef, but no, it's Raffel Brothers.
Some Carnaval (the spelling is Portuguese) performances are SAMBAS.
"Called from the cote" is BLEATED, because apparently a cote can be a sheep pen as well as a bird coop. I had *TWEETED and all other manner of nonsense until this finally became clear.
"Male that might be in a rut?" is ELK. I thought maybe *RAT if the rut was a kind of pun for rat race.
I've never heard of COE College, the small liberal arts school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
SNUGLIS are a brand of baby carrier invented by Anne Moore.
I did not understand the wordplay behind "chemistry exam?" (ASSAY), but it's just a word meaning a test for the presence or activity in a substance, used in medicine and biology.
I knew that a neighbor of a bishop was a knight or rook, but the answer KNT is not good. In algebraic chess notation, a knight is simply N. In descriptive notation, it's either Kt or N. No one uses "KNT." Boo, bad answer.
"Symbol of the National Audubon Society" appeared October 14, and sadly, I had forgotten it. It's still EGRET.
To have the answers E-CARD and E-SIGN in the same puzzle is a bit inelegant, and it made me consider whether one of those was wrong.
"Hey PAULA" was a 1963 #1 hit by Paul and Paula.
"Animal on Scotland's coat of arms" is UNICORN (and lion). However, this seems to be historically; nowadays it seems to be a sole ruddy lion in a field of gold.
I seem to have always thought that French actress Audrey TAUTOU was "Tatou." And I know of her! I enjoyed Amélie! Similarly, I thought "Fanfare for the Common Man" composer Aaron COPLAND was spelled "Copeland."
"Opposite of dep." baffled the hell out of me. It's ARR. Only once I googled them both did I realize that they refer to departure and arrival. I couldn't stop thinking of deposit.
"It moves a cursor back" is LEFT KEY. I tried *LEFT TAB at first. I made it harder than it had to be.
Hair straighteners, RELAXERS, are not in my wheelhouse. I'm male. And white,
Never heard of him department: Tennis great ANKE Huber. I honestly thought her name was Huber Anke, and searched her as such. I have made this mistake before. I also thought she was a man. Anyway, she was the runner up at the 1996 Australian Open.
SADR City is a suburb of Baghdad. It was formerly known as Saddam City, and before that, Revolution City. I wonder why they changed it?
In computer code, a DO-LOOP repeats a statement or block of statements while a Boolean condition remains true. It is also called a "do while loop."
"Durham sch." messed me up. Of course, I kept thinking about North Carolina. But it's UNH, the University of New Hampshire, which is located in Durham, New Hampshire.
Clever clues: "Yule sound?" is LONG U. "Mobile home" is ALA. "Body check" is OGLE.
I've had my PHIL of this too-hard puzzle.
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