A tough themeless by Ned White with a lot of new and interesting fill: SOLO CUP, BEACHCOMB, CRAWDADDY, WHITE SALES, CACAO TREE, SECRET WORD, ON A LARK, and more.
I did most of this puzzle fairly quickly, then spend an additional five minutes on the NW corner. I've heard of "SMACKDOWN," the wrestling show on since 1999, but it didn't immediately spring to mind. Similarly, "Southwestern casserole with a cornbread crust" is a fine clue for TAMALE PIE, but it just didn't come to me.
But most troubling of all, for "Part of Wagner's Ring cycle" I had *RHEINGOLD, but it's the English RHINEGOLD, argh. This tripped me up for quite some time.
CETUS is the constellation known as "the whale," as noted on November 30, in a clue about its brightest star, Mira.
As a Sherlock buff, I knew what "she is always the woman" referred to, but I'm not enough of a Sherlockian to be able to come up with IRENE Adler by myself (though once I saw the first name, I recalled her last name too). Canon-wise, she appears only in "A Scandal in Bohemia."
An EARL is the peer rank behind marquis. The line of power goes baron, viscount, earl, marquess, duke.
Rhode Island is known as the OCEAN State. I guess because it has 400 miles of coastline?
I was so tickled to see ROTOS ("old newspaper photo sections, informally") because only this morning, by total coincidence, I had read the word "rotogravure" in Mr. Popper's Penguins. I had taken special note of the uses in contemporary culture:
Irving Berlin's song "Easter Parade" specifically refers to these type of supplements in the lines "the photographers will snap us, and you'll find that you're in the rotogravure". And the song "Hooray for Hollywood" contains the line "…armed with photos from local rotos" referring to young actresses hoping to make it in the movie industry.Phil MAHRE, another sporty figure I've never heard of and know nothing about. He's an alpine ski racer with 27 World Cup race wins.
I don't associate Paul KLEE with Bauhaus, but apparently he taught at the Bauhaus school.
"City north of Lisbon" is OPORTO, the second-largest city in Portugal, but commonly called Porto, so this extra letter made me confused for a while.
Captain WILLARD is the character played by Martin Sheen, ordered to terminate Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. He's sort of like the observer figure Marlow in Conrad's novel.
I've never heard of Leon AMES. He was a character actor in The Postman Always Rings Twice, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Peggy Sue Got Married (his final role).
I heartily approve of the spelling "PTUI" for "spittoon sound."
KIRS are cocktails made with crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped up with white wine. It named after Félix Kir, mayor of Dijon. A Kir Royale is made with champagne instead, yum.
NGAIO Marsh was a New Zealand-born crime writer. She was known as one of the great "Queens of Crime" along with Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. She wrote 32 novels about her gentlemanly inspector, Roderick Alleyn. Her name is a Maori word meaning a flower or type of bug.
AHMED is a character in the Arabian Nights story "Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Paribanou." He is the youngest son of a sultan, and possesses a magic tent that could fit in his pocket but house an army.
ACRO-, meet ACR-, from yesterday.
Clever clue: "Game you never want to get your fill of?" is TETRIS.
Well, this puzzle was TOTES tough, but at least I wasn't BOORed.