lay of the land/lie of the land … “The first is the usual AmE form, the second the BrE, for this phrase meaning …” Bryan A. Garner in The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style
[this next from Dictionary.com/Random House, Inc.]
lay of the land
the general state or condition of affairs under consideration; the facts of a situation: We asked a few questions to get the lay of the land.
Also, especially British, lie of the land.
lay of the land. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lay of the land (accessed: March 13, 2011).