the lay of the land

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Related to the lay of the land: the lie of the land
the general situation or state of affairs.

See also: Lay

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, published 1913 by G. & C. Merriam Co.
References in classic literature ?
The night was pretty dark, with neither moon nor stars visible, and as Brower had never dwelt thereabout, and knew nothing of the lay of the land, he was, naturally, not long in losing himself.
"What I'm driving at is that I'm beginning to get the lay of the land."
But I didn't mind, because I didn't want to see nobody just yet -- I only wanted to get the lay of the land. According to my plan, I was going to turn up there from the village, not from below.
But he had never made a journey during which he heeded less what he would have called the lay of the land. He obtained lodging at the inn at Poitiers, and the next morning drove in a couple of hours to the village of Fleurieres.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others "are going to talk about our posture and the activities that we're undergoing," Spicer said, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford "will lay out some of the military actions and the way that they see the lay of the land".
The company said members of its team serve as buddies who are local experts who know the lay of the land and have connections to other locals to help save passengers time and money.
The spokesman said: "Len is looking at the lay of the land and Jeremy is happy for him to continue."