Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium
Word of the Day: ELATER (45A: Click beetle) —
The family Elateridae is commonly called click beetles (or "typical click beetles" to distinguish them from the related Cerophytidae and Eucnemidae), elaters, snapping beetles, spring beetles or "skipjacks". They are a cosmopolitan beetle family characterized by the unusual click mechanism they possess. There are a few closely related families in which a few members have the same mechanism, but all elaterids can click. A spine on the prosternum can be snapped into a corresponding notch on the mesosternum, producing a violent "click" which can bounce the beetle into the air. Clicking is mainly used to avoid predation, although it is also useful when the beetle is on its back and needs to right itself. There are about 9300 known species worldwide, and 965 valid species in North America. (wikipedia)
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Six interlacing 15s, none of them very grabby. SINGING TELEGRAM (17A: Special delivery of a sort) is somewhat interesting, but the rest are just blah, as is most of the fill. It's actually somewhat glutted with crosswordese (for a Friday—SMEE and SNEE make for some ugly bookends). Overall, it was a piece of cake except for a. HOG SCORE (or is it HOG'S CORE??? Nope, it's HOG SCORE), an answer that wants to be quaint and adorable but is just annoying for being both highly technical and completely forgettable (10D: Curling rink line seven yards from tee), and b. the whole ELATER area. Actually, it was EINS (28D: Fifth of fünf) that screwed me up. I had EINE. I'm not Germanically versed enough to know the difference, apparently, so my [Oxford attachment?] was an E-HIRE for, like, ever. Other minor slips included ALAN for ALEC, RTE for AVE (9D: GPS screen abbr.), and ON A BREAK for IN A SLUMP (38D: Experiencing down time). I did learn that Eolith or neolith is a tool. I thought they were eras, but now that I think of it, I'm probably thinking EOCENE.
I'd almost like ESCARP (43A: Fort's steep slope) / ELATER better if it were one word: The ESCARPELATER!
- 1A: Title matchmaker of early 19th-century literature (EMMA) — Only needed the first two words of that clue. Cinch.
- 15A: Britain's Douglas-Home (ALEC) — I have no idea who this person is. In fact, at first, I wasn't sure it was a person. Maybe, I don't know, a home ... of some kind. Oh look, he was Prime Minister, very briefly, six years before I was born. How interesting.
- 25A: "Oedipe" opera composer, 1936 (ENESCO) — a composer that appears in grids from time to time, often under a different spelling (ENESCU!)
- 36A: N.F.L. QB Kyle (ORTON) — former Bronco, who led the KC Chiefs to victory over the Tebow-led Broncos in a late-season game that made me very happy.
- 2D: Where "ayuh" is an affirmative (MAINE) — I can't even imagine how this works.
- 61A: "Live at Red Rocks" pianist (TESH) — a poor man's ENESCO.
- 6D: Pasternak mistress Ivinskaya (OLGA) — ??? [Some Russian woman's name] would've worked just as well. Got it off the "O."
- 24D: 2008 demolition target (SHEA) — I forgot about that. Somehow I imagine it still sitting there, unused, sad. Like Tiger Stadium. (Whoops, apparently that was also a 2008 demolition target—I haven't been to Detroit since '06)
- 33D: Dutch Golden Age painter (HALS) — I like his name. It means "neck" in Middle English.
- 39D: Home of Sistan and Baluchestan (IRAN) — I'm enjoying imagining that these are fat twins, like Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum.