I feel really good about completing this puzzle error-free, especially since it’s a really clever construct which could have proved difficult. However, it turned out that my brain was up to the challenge, and I enjoyed doing it. I was done in less than two hours which, for me, is excellent.
The title immediately had me thinking that there was a rebus involved where more than one letter would occupy a single square in each of the theme answers. That turned out to be correct. But what I didn’t know until I started filling answers in is that the title also refers to a second rebus, and the two rebuses intersect each other. The answer in the squares where they intersect is a dual interpretation of WATER. In one direction, the word WATER is condensed in a single square; in the other, the letters in the square are the chemical notation for WATER = HHO, more commonly known as H2O.
My first “Aha!” moment came when I was filling in 11-Down. Well, more accurately, I knew the correct answer but was one square short. So, here was the first rebus. The question was which square contained it. My second “Aha!” moment came with 50-Across. Again, I had no doubt about the correct answer, but I was several spaces shy. That’s when the idea of the second rebus hit me. And once I realized how to deal with the answer to 50-Across, that was the clue I needed to understand how the two rebuses intersected. From there, getting the answers to the clues where WATER fills one square was fairly easy.
1D. Refuse to hand over = WitHHOld
27A. Subject of big 1970’s headlines = [WATER]gate Scandal
14D. Last possible moment = EleventH HOur
50A. Seltzer = Carbonated [WATER]
16D. Ski mask feature = MoutH HOle
35A. The second Africa-American after Hattie McDaniel to be nominated for an Oscar =
51D. Where people are always changing? = BatH HOuse
67A. Best Picture inspired by a Pulitzer-winning series of newspaper articles =
On the [WATER]front
68D. What an optimist has = HigH HOpes
85A. Necklace decoration that’s not from the sea = Fresh[WATER] Pearl
80D. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” song = HeigH HO
102A. Coastal structures countering erosion = Break[WATER]
84D. Prominent features of the theme from “Star Wars” = FrencH HOrns
109A. Historic event on June 18, 1815 = Battle of [WATER]loo