This entry will really be a spoiler, so if you have intentions of solving this thing, please read no further today. Seriously.
Last chance to back out.... OK, here goes.
Today we get to travel with Gary Steinmehl on not one, but three cross-country trips. So bring along that luggage, be sure to stuff all your bags in the trunk, tie down the rest to the car roof, and off we go!
Don't make me pull over! We're not stopping until the end of this entry. I mean it.
Since it's a Friday, you know that it's a given that the clues will be anywhere between tricky and downright brutal. That's true, but in addition, you also get the feeling that something's not quite right here. And when you get that feeling during a puzzle, when something just doesn't fit, that's a good time to suspect a rebus.
In this case, we've got three long horizontal answers here. Each contains its own Griswold-family style cross-country trip (sans Walleyworld, unfortunately), with postal abbreviations on each geographically-appropriate end:
Goof off under deadline ([wa]STE PRECIOUS TI[me]) - Here, WA and ME each get to be roomies in the same square. So we start off in Washington(WA) in the west of the grid, and wander all the way to the east coast of Maine(ME).
What the South African province Free State was called a century ago ([or]ANGE RIVER COLO[ny]) - my least favorite of the three, but I presume it fits under the constraints of this tricky theme. A bit of Jeopardy!-style trivia I didn't know, so I guess it's fair game for a Friday. This time, we begin in Oregon(OR), and end up in New York(NY). (I'm not insinuating that people from New York never visit Oregon, I'm just being consistent here).
Lastly, Tells it like it is ([ca]LLS A SPADE A SPA[de]) - In the language, pretty straightforward - this is the one that got the theme for me - I started near the bottom and worked this puzzle upwards. By now you probably get the idea, but I'm stubborn, so I'm going to do this anyway: This time we go from California(CA) to Delaware(DE).
Still with me? Great. Here's some of that Friday cluing - starting with my favorite:
- No alternative (KABUKI) - By now you're either marveling at the wording of this one, or shaking your head in confusion. Both are understandable. No(noh) is another form of Japanese theater. While NOH often appears in puzzles, its other spelling is usually ignored, since two-letter words usually aren't kosher in crosswords. Once I had the -KI ending, I was set here, but that's still some evil stuff - I love it. (Also, I wanted to be the first to reference 'kosher' and 'kabuki' in the same paragraph').
- It shouldn't be tried by people who aren't good at English (MASSE) - You know, one of those cool trick pool shots where there's a ton of spin (aka English) on the ball. For me, this just means ripping the felt off the pool table and being escorted out by management. I don't try this one much, so this clue worked nicely.
And one less deceptive clue, but tough to pry out of memory:
- Eris' former name (XENA) Remember that whole 'dwarf planet' controversy about a year or two ago, before Pluto was demoted? Where they found some other small objects that were not planets in our system, but still larger than Pluto? Yep, here it is again. Xena was its original name before its official classification as a dwarf planet (same as poor Pluto). Read all about it here.
If you didn't remember this or hadn't heard of it, this becomes another roadblock to work around, and that X is especially hairy.
Oh, I just noticed the words AMISH and BOOTY right next to each other in the top-right. That makes me chuckle for some reason, and there's no shame in that. Is there?
There's plenty more in this puzzle, but I have to cut things short tonight.
As always, share your experiences with your fellow puzzlers... the good, the bad, and even the ugly.
Before I run out, a big thanks to Robert, the Green One, for letting me use this space. I hope he doesn't lose his security deposit on account of me. I cleaned the carpet and walls as best I could, and spackled everything else. Adios!